New diner brings business, ’50s flair to Kempner

Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Juanita Helgesson and her daughter, Vicki Helgesson, fill orders while working at their new restaurant, Rockin’ H, Monday in Kempner.

By Taylor Short

Killeen Daily Herald

The small town of Kempner has a new business - and its fifth restaurant - to add to its tax rolls.

The Rockin' H restaurant, located at the corner of U.S. Highway 190 and Farm-to-Market 2808, opened its doors Monday to an unexpected stream of customers during the first week, said proprietors David and Juanita Helgesson.

The '50s and '60s rock'n' roll-inspired diner was born out of an injury David suffered while working construction. His dream of owning a restaurant became a reality with the help of his wife and two daughters, Vicki and Angela.

"It was a bad event that turned good." David said as he balanced three burger orders on the grill with hot wings and fresh-cut french fries in the fryer. "But without the support of our friends and family, we could not have done this."

City Secretary Trudy Davis said the business is the 16th in Kempner, a city with just more than 1,000 people and about two square miles of land.

The Helgessons saw the small building, which used to house the restaurant Chili Red's, was for lease. Within a month, the family repainted it pink and blue to fit the theme and began cooking.

Mayor Gene Isenhour said that while Rockin' H replaced an existing business, he's glad the building did not sit empty for long.

"It's also open more hours, has a breakfast menu. I think it's different," he said. "I think it'll be a draw, and I hope the community supports them."

The walls are lined with Elvis Presley and Beatles memorabilia while classic rock plays on the radio to match David's love for the king of rock'n' roll.

The family worked with intensity to produce burgers, hot dogs, Frito pies, shakes and malts during their first day. They were determined in their goal to make a good impression on their first customers.

David said his favorite items are the cheese steaks and hot wings, which he claims are the best in the area.

The restaurant offers a 10 percent military discount and is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

By Wednesday afternoon, David said he was happy with the crowds the small diner was able to draw in the first few days.

"It's been almost overwhelming for a bunch of rookies," he said.

Contact Taylor Short at or (254) 501-7476.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.