HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) – In 1969, Vernie Mermis went from working at a co-op to working at a burger joint in western Kansas.

Five years later, the family decided to make the business their own, officially opening Vernie’s Hamburger House in Hays.

Decades later, the restaurant is thriving.

“I grew up here,” said Jennifer Mermis, referring to the restaurant her family bought. “Actually, they bought the restaurant the year I was born.”

“We’ve been here 51 years and my mom and dad raised four kids here,” said Bonnie Mermis. “It’s been a lot to our family. It’s kind of a way of life.”

“Our consistency through the years and our customers, you know,” said Jennifer. “We’ve pretty much done the same thing for 50 years.”

There is a map in the restaurant with pins marking the hometowns of customers from near and far, other towns, states, even continents.

“We have people as far as Southeast Asia,” said Jennifer.

The restaurant serves traditional diner foods and some items that are not as traditional.

“The green bean and dumpling (soup) we started probably about 20 years ago,” said Bonnie. “It was my dad’s idea. I thought it would never ever go over.”

She said it has turned out to be a Hays’ favorite.

Customers say they keep coming back because of the good food and hospitality.

“Many regulars, people that are still, have been coming in for the last 40 years, now their kids are coming, their grandkids, and great-grandkids,” said Jennifer. “It’s really neat. They’re part of our family.”

“It’s amazing,” said Emily Prine, one of the employees. “I’ve become part of the family. I feel super close to everyone who works here. We have a lot of fun, we get things done obviously, but it’s just like a big, happy family.”

“We want them to leave with the down-home, old-fashioned-still diner, a nice place you can go,” said Bonnie. “We don’t have TVs. You can come and eat and have a conversation and no loud music and get good food every time.”

If you want to check out Vernie’s Hamburger House in person, it’s at 527 E. 17th Street, Hays. You can also check out the restaurant’s Facebook page to find the hours it is open.