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Cool Things - Capitol lunch cart

Jimmy Knight's lunch cartGood businesses often start in small ways and by determination. Jimmy Knight's lunch cart started him on the road to success as a restaurant entrepreneur.

In some financial difficulty, Jimmy Knight created his own business in 1941 by preparing chili and sandwiches at home and selling them to the snack stand at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. He also bought a baby buggy and installed a box on the buggy's frame. From this box he was able to sell food as he pushed the cart around downtown. Soon he had regular customers in and around the Capitol.

The box served well as a lunch wagon, with one compartment for the sandwiches and another for the chili. A small propane tank could be attached to the outside as a fuel source for keeping the chili hot. This compartment was made of metal—including an old Coca-Cola sign—to prevent the wooden cart from burning. The sandwich section was made of shiplap siding. On the outside were painted the words, "Jimmey (sic) Knight's Homemade Chili and Sandwiches 10 ¢" and "Serve Chili at Your Parties."

Knight said, "I wasn't ashamed to push it along the streets and sell. Some people looked down their noses at me, but I may have been making more money than they were."

The food must have been good and Jimmy a good salesman because he came to operate several restaurants in Topeka, including Jimmy Knight's Grill, first at 717 Quincy and later at 525 Van Buren. With his son, Jerry—who donated the buggy to the Kansas Museum of History—they operated Knight's Hamburger Inn at 1000 E. 21st, and Knight's Restaurant at 1620 W. Sixth. Jimmy was active in the restaurants until his death in 1972.

Entry: Cool Things - Capitol lunch cart

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2002

Date Modified: February 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.