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

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.

Streamlining regulations helps Americans compete

The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It is a major reason our companies re-locate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes

What is happening in California with water allocation disputes is a harbinger of what is to come in our state as well.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

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.