Students missed class and workers rearranged their schedules for what has almost become a holiday — the opening of Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In for the season.
Thirteen-year-old Lizzy Kenific of Scotia was the first person in line and ordered a hot dog, burger, curly fries and lemonade.
“The past few years I’ve been first or second,” she said. “I like the food and I like being here.”
By 11:20 a.m., there were 70 people in line, a welcome sight for general manager Mark Lansing, Jr.
“It feels great to be back again,” he said. “It’s nice to have a nice big line full of loyal customers here already. They like the atmosphere. We try to have fun behind the counter and keep it a positive attitude and get them their food really fast.”
New this year is an addition to the facility and expanded flavors. However, Lansing said it was important that not too much changes at Jumpin’ Jack’s.
“If you look at the building now from the outside, it doesn’t look like it was an addition,” he said. The 30 percent extra space allows the business to serve all 10 flavors of ice cream a day instead of having to rotate flavors in and out.
Emma Hyland, 17, of Scotia went right for dessert instead of a burger.
“I wasn’t going to wait in line for that, so I went into the ice cream line,” she said while eating chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.
Hyland was among the local high school students making up a majority of the line who
couldn’t resist taking an extra-long lunch break or missing school entirely for the big day. Her parents wrote her a note to get out of school.
“They said I had an appointment,” she said.
Scotia-Glenville student Dan Graham, 17, was enjoying a Jack burger, french fries and clam fry on a lunch break from school. When asked if he would return for his afternoon classes, he said, “I might, maybe. It depends on how I’m feeling.”
Chilly temperatures in the 40s didn’t deter the hardy.
“It’s a little cold. I probably should have worn a jacket,” said 17-year-old Emily Taplin of Burnt Hills, a student at nearby Mekeel Christian Academy. “I’m the only one in short sleeves here, but it’s worth it.”
She was pleased that the line seemed to be moving at a brisk pace. Taplin also said she didn’t mind missing school.
“I had to come here and get the food,” she said.
She only missed study halls anyway, Taplin added. She planned to return to school after she ate her Jack burger and curly fries.
In addition to the food, customers like the raucous atmosphere, with staff taking orders at rapid-fire pace, shouting “next in line” and yelling out the orders in code such as “7-4-5.”
The customers like hearing the lingo — a kind of shorthand for the staff, according to Chris Battiste of Burnt Hills, who has been working at Jumpin’ Jack’s since 2005.
“It’s easy for us to put the orders together. It gives everybody something different to do so they know what their job is,” he said. “It’s a fun place to work because everyone works together hard and we get along.”
For example, anything that starts with the number 7 is related to chicken. The employees have to learn both word and number codes, according to Battiste.
“Everything is all different. It takes you about a week or so to learn it, and you pretty much remember everything,” he said.
The word “subway” can frequently be heard as the line moves along. It’s not a promotion for the popular sandwich chain, but means that somebody put money in the tip jar. Lansing said the expression is thought to date back to a deli in New York City.
“Someone leaves them a tip. The guy at the counter yells back ‘subway’ — like we have money to ride the subway, so we don’t have to walk home,” he said.
It wasn’t just students enjoying burgers and fries. Financial planner Larry Jones rearranged his day so he could be there.
“To be here on the first day is always special,” he said. “I noticed the sign up for a long time. I had it marked on my calendar.”
Having lunch at two picnic tables was a group of men employed at Time Warner Cable.
“I wish it was warmer but you’ve got to take what you can get,” said Rich Coonrad.
Going to Jumpin’ Jack’s on opening day is a ritual for many families. Robert McCloskey brought his wife, Deb, and son Nick.
“He’s a senior, and every year we try to come. It will be our last time going to opening day at Jumpin’ Jack’s,” Robert McCloskey said.
Nick McCloskey was eating a cheeseburger with cooked onions and curly fries.
“It’s just awesome. It feels like it’s almost homemade and it’s unique and it’s a great environment,” he said.
Amy Wallace of Scotia said she has come on opening day every year since she can remember.
When asked what he liked about Jumpin’ Jack’s, her 4-year-old son, Liam said, “cheeseburgers.”
His 2-year-old brother, Colin, added “and I want cheeseburgers and no ketchup.”
“He’s just giving you his order,” Liam said.
There is just something about being there on opening day, according to Wallace.
“It kind of signifies that summer is on the way,” she said.