June 05, 2014
"They called him 'Mr. Don'."
“They called him ‘Mr. Don’.”
by jim richmond
The building on the northwest corner of Angell and Hamblin streets is boarded up now, with windows broken out by vandals. In its last days, the store was Cady’s Superette.
But there is more than one unusual twist to the property on this corner.
In 1945, it was the Battle Creek Beer Store, which Don Taft purchased and expanded into sale of freshly cut beef and grocery items.
It was then – as today – a poor neighborhood, and customers called Taft “Mr. Don,” according to son George Taft, who I interviewed in 2005.
So Don Taft named the store Mr. Don’s Superette.
In 1956, Taft opened his first fast food restaurant across the street from the grocery store, and originally named it Frosty Drive In, changing the name to Mr. Don’s in 1960.
Until this past year, the small fast food restaurant still operated, open irregular hours and days, as Figgs Fast Foods, serving -- many local aficionados claim -- the best hamburgers to be found in Battle Creek.
Eventually, George Taft opened three Mr. Don’s Restaurants, both successful and popular for their “cook-to-order” menus, featuring chili dogs, homemade onion rings, soup, the Big Don Burger, and biscuit with sausage gravy.
Restaurant locations were on East Columbia Avenue (closed), southwest Capital Avenue (now Nina’s Tacqueria) and North 20th Street near Dickman Road. The last location is still in the Taft family.