Many Tulsans were concerned when QuikTrip bought the southeast corner of Lewis Avenue and 15th Street and dislodged the flagship Bill & Ruth’s Cherry Street. However, the legacy of sandwich, salad and soup maestro Samih Saiymeh, along with his staff, continues just a half-mile east in a new location with ownership transferring to the next generation.
Samih and Anita Saiymeh’s daughter Ayschia Kuykendall and her husband, Jeff, bought the business. Kuykendall says her dad still prepares and always refines his from-scratch soups and the daily baking of bread and cookies. The house recipes for ranch dressing, tuna salad, tzatziki and jalapeño sauce remain, along with Damascus-born Saiymeh’s family recipes for hummus and tabouli.
“It’s more than serving food,” Kuykendall says. “It feels like Tulsa wanted this so much, and when QuikTrip announced they were taking over the lot we were afraid we wouldn’t relocate. People actually cared and don’t want us to go away, and we are so thankful they want us.
“Excitement and love carried us through to this new day, where the service and food are the same. We upgraded to a new building into the 21st century and we’re still, and will always be, a mom-and-pop shop.”
Almost nothing has changed other than deletion of a few low-selling items, and salads now come in one size. The drive-through window has an order speaker.
The other Bill & Ruth’s locations around town are franchises under different ownership.
“My parents opened under the original owner in 1980,” Kuykendall says. “When it went up for sale, things went into limbo and people had free rein to change, like offer burgers or sushi.
“But growing up, I always heard that our shop was the best one, and that’s probably because my folks stuck with the original menu and high standards of quality that were at the heart of the business. We take pride in what we offer, and in a new era of continuing their legacy.”