In the early 1950′s, a burger, shake and fries was already an American classic. But people who hungered for this classic meal usually had to sit down and wait. When 29-year old Dick Spady and his partners went to the local banks during the summer of 1953, seeking a loan to build their first restaurant, the bankers politely showed them the door. But Dick and his partners never gave up, and on the morning of January 28, 1954, the first Dick’s Drive-In opened for business on N.E. 45th Street in the Wallingford District of Seattle.
This Friday, Cokes are discounted to a dime on Friday and Dick’s will host a nostalgic concert by The Nowhere Men (a Beatles cover band) at 7 that evening at its Queen Anne location, 500 Queen Anne Ave. N. According to the Seattle Times,
“Three days after we opened, it snowed and we had to close,” said Spady, 85, in a phone interview. “We were just trying to survive.”
The mini empire of five restaurants has done more than that, thriving as a favorite for locals for more than five decades, but also gaining a well-deserved reputation for being a model corporate citizen. Workers earn above minimum wage, and those who stick around are eligible for health care. High school students can apply for generous scholarships. Donations to charitable organizations flow as freely as Coke from the soda machine.
From reading through some of the fondest memories that former employees have of working at Dick’s, it is clear that Dick Spady and his managers were intent on giving their workers opportunities to go to college and develop their careers. They set a tone for their business philosophy that has endured for 55 years. Congratulations, Dick! You can watch an interview with Dick on the Seattle Channel.