Thanks, Dick; Dick’s Drive-In founder | Don Brunell

Seattle lost an icon earlier this month when Dick Spady, the 92-year old founder of Dick’s Drive-In restaurants, died.

Seattle lost an icon earlier this month when Dick Spady, the 92-year old founder of Dick’s Drive-In restaurants, died.

He was an entrepreneur who took a risk, worked hard, treated his workers and customers well, sold an excellent product at an affordable price, and did his part to make his community and country a better place to live and raise a family.

Dick Spady was a pacesetter in the fast food industry which developed a full-head of steam in the 1950s. He was quick to recognize a business opportunity and believed that people wanted a fast, affordable and high quality meal.

Spady, who was raised in Portland and sold real estate, and two partners opened the first Dick’s Drive-In in 1954 near the University of Washington. He later bought them out and it became a family-owned business

Sales of Dick’s 19-cent hamburgers, 11-cent fries and 15-cent hand-dipped milkshakes soared. It became the place to go even if it was 100 degrees in the shade or freezing cold in the rain.

Over 20 years, Dick’s added four other restaurants in the northern parts of Seattle. Only a store in Bellevue bit the dust. Then in 2011, after 15,000 people voted online to pick the new location, the Spady family opened its first store in 37 years.

The new store is in Edmonds and Dick Spady cut the ribbon as the bagpipers and drummer played. It was a happening and that’s the way it has been over the last 62 years.

Other drive-in restaurants have changed dramatically. They have rebranded and added drive-thru windows, switched to frozen fries and set up large distribution chains. Meanwhile, Dick’s maintains the same service model with fresh beef, buns and hand-cut potatoes for French fries.

“We don’t do chicken or fish,” Jim Spady, one of Dick’s sons who became president, told me. “We stick to what we do best—hamburgers!”

McDonalds started in 1955 when Ray Kroc, a multi-milkshake mixer and paper cup salesman in California, convinced the McDonalds brothers to expand. People in Seattle may even remember the McDonald’s Drive-In just outside Sicks (baseball) Stadium in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. It offered the same menu from walk-up counters like Dick’s.

Now fast food restaurants are open 24 hours, serve breakfast all day, have kid’s meals with toys, big advertising budgets, and offer extensive menus. Dick’s keeps its traditional menu and hours—10:30 to 2:00 a.m. It’s burgers, fries and shakes are its advertising.

In 2012, Dick’s was declared America’s “Most Life-Changing Burger Joint” in an online Esquire poll beating out In-N-Out and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Dick’s treats its employees as family.

Its workers are paid higher than minimum wage, offered up to $25,000 in college tuition assistance, provided health and dental benefits and child care assistance. They are even are paid for community service. It is no wonder Dick’s Drive-In has the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry.

In total, Dick’s has provided over $1 million each in education scholarships and support local charities and disaster relief. The Spady family involves its customers who have dropped over $800,000 in change in “Change for Charities” boxes on store counters.

Dick Spady served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He was patriotic and believed deeply in America. In 2008, he founded and funded the Community Forums Network as a means to facilitate citizen involvement in public policy decisions.

Just as Dick’s Drive-Ins are built to last, Spady wanted to make sure that America continued to prosper for generations to come.

Thanks, Dick. We’re glad you came our way.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.

 

 

 

 

More in Business

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.

Remembering Ed Carlson, Vietnam POW

Since last Veteran’s Day, Ken Burns’ in-depth documentary on the Vietnam War has aired. It is a powerful reminder of an unpopular war in which many “baby boomers” fought and died.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.

Expanded Panama Canal among challenges for Washington Ports

The $5.4 billion spent to expand the Panama Canal is paying off for East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seaports; however, it is putting more pressure on the Northwest to remain competitive.

Players taking a knee hurting the NFL | Don Brunell

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Portland, a young woman stepped onto the playing field at the beginning of the University of Montana vs Portland State football game and started singing our national anthem. She immediately drew a blank on the words and briefly stopped, but as she started apologizing, the fans spontaneously took up the singing.

New metal collecting machine may clean up contaminated waters

There is a new machine being tested in Montana which could decontaminate toxic mine tailings while recovering valuable precious minerals for everyday use.

Workshop will focus on business, social media

All are invited to learn how social media can impact business and how it can be used to create a positive experience for customers.

Impact of Hirst decision must be address

In Washington, the legislative stalemate over permitting new household wells and the state’s construction budget has not only delayed needed funding for public projects, but triggered yet another salvo in the wider conflict over future supplies of fresh water for people, fish and farms.

Mitigate massive wildfire danger | Don Brunell

At last count firefighters were battling 82 major wildfires in 10 western states. The fires have already scorched 2,300 square miles of forests and range lands, dislocated thousands of people, and burned hundreds of homes and buildings.

Silver linings to Hurricane Harvey | Don Brunell

All of the things that went wrong in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, appear to have been corrected with Houston’s recent Hurricane Harvey. Chalk it up to a series of important lessons learned.