For decades, Gene Spear fed Wichita:
Homemade pies, sandwiches, roast beef lunch specials and pumpkin bread with whipped honey butter were some of the traditional staples.
But bringing families together over food was his trademark.
Mr. Spear, retired owner and operator of Spear’s Restaurant and Food Services, died Monday. He was 84.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First Evangelical Free Church, 1825 N. Woodlawn.
“My father ran his business based on Christian principles,” said Randy Spear, one of Mr. Spear’s sons. “That was part of our business – it is how we treated our employees and customers.”
Mr. Spear was born May 12, 1932, in Wichita and was a 1950 graduate of East High School.
After high school, Mr. Spear served in the Navy Reserve before beginning work at Boeing Wichita.
Growing up, Mr. Spear learned some of his restaurant skills from his mother, Mayme Spear, who operated the Veterans Grill on East Kellogg across from the Veterans Administration Hospital. It closed in 1955.
He was 24 years old when he and his mother opened the first Spear’s Restaurant in a large house at Mount Vernon and Oliver in southeast Wichita. The restaurant featured homestyle cooking and was a childhood dream.
“He opened that first store, and she sold out within a year to him,” Randy Spear said.
The famous homemade pies came later when Mr. Spear married his wife, Betty.
He focused on the kitchen meals. She became known as the “Pie Lady.” The couple ran their business for the next 25 years until their sons – Randy, Gary and Rick Spear – graduated from college and began to help full time with the family business.
He focused on the kitchen meals. She became known as the “Pie Lady.”
The couple ran their business for the next 25 years until their sons – Randy, Gary and Rick – graduated from college and began to help full time with the family business.
Mr. Spear served as president of the Kansas Restaurant Association for several years.
“To be honest, my dad had to put in an awful lot of hours as the owner and operator of the restaurant,” Randy Spear said. “We were closed on Sundays, his only day off. And if we wanted to take a vacation, it meant he would close the restaurant.
“When we saw him, we were busing tables and working for him.”
Betty Spear died in 2008. Mr. Spear later married Margaret Nelson, owner of Joyland.
Spear’s had a chain of six restaurants at one time as well as a catering business. Now, it has one restaurant at 4323 W. Maple.
Two years ago, it was bought by Dan Crandall, who had been the longtime general manager of Spear’s Restaurant & Pie Shop.
Memorials have been established with Botanica for the Joyland Carousel Project and the Gene E. Spear Train Garden.