Len Wade, owner of the restaurant at 1503 E. 11th St. (aka Route 66), told News on 6 in Tulsa he’s motivated to help the museum 30 miles to the northeast because Oklahoma native and famed humorist Will Rogers himself was a fan of Ike’s Chili.
Wade wanted to support the remodel and started a fundraiser to help cover some of the costs.
“We don’t expect to solve their financial difficulties, but every little bit helps,” Wade said.
Will Rogers is a huge part of their restaurant’s history and Wade sees this as a way to keep the spirit of Will Rogers alive.
Ike’s is donating 10% of its purchases to the museum, which announced a year ago it would undergo $14 million in renovations and expansions of its exhibits.
The museum also wants to create a new entrance and a new event center, add a new vault that will meet modern preservation standards and make it Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant by adding elevators.
Here’s the video report from News on 6:
The museum’s goal is to finish its renovations by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Route 66. It would be the first significant changes since it opened in 1938, three years after Rogers’ death in a plane crash.
This year, Ike’s Chili is marking its 115th year in business. Ike’s opened in downtown Tulsa in 1908, one year after Oklahoma’s statehood. That also is almost 20 years before U.S. 66 was federally commissioned.
(Image of a bowl of Ike’s Chili from its Facebook page; image of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum by J. Stephen Conn via Flickr)