One of Austin's oldest restaurants closing after 65 years
Austin’s last remaining Night Hawk restaurant closes doors after 65 years
Iconic Frisco Shop the first Austin restaurant to hire women, minorities
(Austin, TX) – After 65 years of proudly serving the Austin community, the legendary Night Hawk Frisco Shop, the last surviving restaurant in the iconic family-owned chain, is shutting its doors. Citing changing demographics, increasing competition and an already tight labor market, co-owners R. Harry and Julia Akin decided to retire the restaurant. The final day of service to the public will be Sunday, July 29.
Though the decision to close the restaurant was difficult, the Akins are incredibly grateful to the Austin community, to which the restaurant has become culturally engrained. “The Frisco Shop is part of my DNA,” R. Harry says. “I grew up on a farm on Burnet Road, riding my bicycle by the restaurant on a regular basis. I remember buying an order of french fries for fifteen cents. I want to express appreciation to the people of Austin for their loyal support of the Frisco Shop over the period of its 65-year existence.”
Julia adds, “It has been a pleasure and an honor to have been a part of the Frisco family. It really seems the restaurant hasn’t belonged to us as much as it has belonged to the generations of Austinites who grew up eating there. I enjoyed seeing parents and grandparents bring in their children and grandchildren, and I loved hearing about first dates, courtships, family celebrations, and other fond memories that occurred there. It was a place longtime Austinites could always count on running into friends. We thank our Austin community.”
The Night Hawk Frisco Shop is the last survivor of the Night Hawk Restaurants founded in 1932, in Austin, by Harry Akin. At the company’s peak of business in the 1970’s, there were seven Night Hawk restaurants operating in Texas - four in Austin, two in San Antonio and one in Houston).
The Night Hawk Frisco Shop opened in 1953 at the corner of Koenig Lane and Burnet Road in Austin, seating fewer than 30 customers. Due to an overwhelming demand, the restaurant expanded three times over the decades. The Frisco Shop remained at its original location until 2008, when it moved to its current location, one-half mile north, to 6801 Burnet Road.
The restaurant changed hands but remained in the family when, in 1994, it was purchased by Harry Akin’s nephew R. Harry Akin, his wife Julia, and longtime friend and manager Lawrence Baker. R. Harry Akin had worked for Night Hawk while a student at the University of Texas, and for a number of years after he became an attorney. R. Harry was president of Night Hawk Restaurants while Uncle Harry served as mayor of Austin from 1967 to 1969.
Night Hawk Restaurants is perhaps most famously known for spearheading the move to integrate restaurants in Austin in 1960, one of the first Austin businesses to do so. They were an equal opportunity employer virtually from the beginning.
“The closing of the Night Hawk Frisco Shop is the end of an era in Austin. Many may remember former Austin Mayor Harry Akin getting invited to the White House by President Kennedy to serve on a business group on civil rights. He was a true trailblazer. The Night Hawk was also the first Austin restaurant to offer late-night service. Their vision, generosity and contributions to the Austin community and the Texas Restaurant Association will not be forgotten.” Richie Jackson, CEO, Texas Restaurant Association.
The Night Hawk’s well-known reputation of valuing its employees, always striving to provide a quality workplace, and treating employees with appreciation and respect led many employees to spend the entirety of their careers there, some as many as 60+ years.
picture courtesy of Tx Restaurant Assoc