Dining With Denise Neil

Couple who made Wichita’s Ty’s Diner a greasy burger palace die one day apart

Vern Hartley, cooking burgers at Ty’s Diner in 1989, died last week in Utah. His wife, Dottie, died the next day.
Vern Hartley, cooking burgers at Ty’s Diner in 1989, died last week in Utah. His wife, Dottie, died the next day. File photo

One of Wichita’s oldest and most loved greasy burger restaurants is what it is today because of Vern and Dottie Hartley, its current owners say.

The Hartleys, who owned Ty’s Diner at 928 W. Second St. from 1980 until the mid 1990s, died last week — one day apart — in Utah, according to their obituaries, which were shared this week on the Ty’s Diner Facebook page.

“A lot of my customers say that they were the reason that Ty’s Diner is the way it is today,” said Kristen Hale, who is the seventh and current owner of the restaurant, which was opened in 1953 by Kenny Tyson. “Kenny was the founder, but Vern and Dottie really put their heart and soul into it.”

Vern, whose full name was LaVernard, died on Saturday at his home in Cedar City Utah, according to his obituary. Dottie, 89, died the next day.

Vern’s obituary says that Dottie was his second wife, and the couple moved to Wichita to be closer to her sons. He had previously worked as a regional manager for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

They bought Ty’s and threw themselves into it, according to a story published in the Wichita Eagle in 1989.

“The couple arrive at the restaurant each morning between 7:30 and 8,” the story said. “They prepare lettuce, tomatoes and onions, separate fresh ground beef into patties and cut potatoes. By the time Ty’s opens at 11, they are prepared for 3 non-stop hours. The place fills up early and empties out late.”

Vern worked as the restaurant’s only cook, the article said. Dottie handled the books and worked as waitress and hostess.

The Hartleys are who brought the restaurant into modern times, the article said. They added a grill that would handle more than one order at a time and purchased two deep fryers.

’’We have the best hamburgers around,” Vern Hartley said in 1989. “That’s why people keep coming back.”

Ty’s, which has been open for 65 years, is one of the oldest still-operating restaurants in Wichita.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle