Friday, April 25, 2014

Drive-in Article – August 9, 1984

Ah, my preoccupation with Dog 'n Suds isn't quite over yet.

Here's a nice article about both area drive-ins – Ilene's Dog 'n Suds and Dinner Bell. Originally appearing in the Chronicle-Telegram on August 9, 1984, it's a relatively newer article compared to what I usually transcribe and post. But it's pretty informative.

It's written by C-T Staff Writer Geoffrey Barnard and includes a nice history of both drive-ins.

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Fading drive-ins embrace old times
By GEOFFREY BARNARD
C-T Staff Writer

ELYRIA – In the old days before McDonald's and other sit-down, fast-food restaurants, drive-ins were THE place to get fast food or a quick snack. They were also THE place to hang out.

Teen-agers, waited on by carhops, munched hamburgers and milk shakes behind the wheel of daddy's '57 DeSoto, Studebaker or old Nash. In the '50's, they packed drive-ins from the Sunset Strip to Martha's Vineyard.

Drive-in chains flourished, much like the fast food chains of today. In 1964, there were more than 600 Dog & Suds drive-ins, one of the prospering national groups.

Although many of the drive-in chains have since folded, leaving boarded-up restaurants littering the roadside like concrete dinosaurs, 102 Dog & Suds are still operating – two owned by Ilene Hampton, a resident of Elyria and Naples, Fla.

SHE IS NOW in her 20th year of ownership of the Dog & Suds at 2050 North Ridge Road, Sheffield Township. She is one of only three 20-year owners in the history of the chain.

Although many areas no longer have a single drive-in, the Elyria area has two. The Dinner Bell drive-in, an independent restaurant, has also been operating at 6340 Lake Avenue since 1964.

William Reynolds, of Elyria, says he has been working hard to make the drive-in profitable since buying it three years ago. Reynolds, a worker at The Pfaudler Company, bought the Dinner Bell because his family background is in the restaurant business.

"It's not bad work if you want to work 12 hours a day," he says, adding that the business is "getting by."

Mrs. Hampton has not only gotten by in the drive-in business, she has prospered.

"I stay in the drive-in restaurant business because it has been good to me," she says. "I like (the Sheffield Township) restaurant the best. I took it over when it was in bankruptcy and built it up. That would make anyone proud."

Her successful Dog & Suds restaurant has enabled her to buy several Elyria real estate properties, enter into partnership in a North Ridgeville beauty parlor and open The Naples Drive-in and Restaurant in Naples, which she oversees in the months that her Elyria restaurant is closed.

REYNOLDS SAYS he hasn't had time to "build up" a steady clientele like the one that keeps Mrs. Hampton comfortably in the black, but his business is "steadily getting better."

"The thing about Ilene's business," Reynolds says, "is her root beer. It's her drawing card. Also, this highway (newly opened Route 204 [sic]) has helped me out."

The trick to Mrs. Hampton's root beer is that it is homemade. The Dog & Suds chain sends its owners to school to learn how to make the special brew, and provides the restaurants with the equipment and ingredients for making it.

Mrs. Hampton, however, attributes her success to her steady customers and the quality of service.

"This has been a repeat business for years," she says. "They keep coming back because of the service and the quality of the food. But you have to have the girls (carhops)  to sell the product."

Reynolds agrees that service is the strong suit of his drive-in.

"You try to have the girls get across to the people that you care about them," he said. "Our service is definitely slower than fast food restaurants, but what you lose in speed, you gain in individual service."

2 comments:

Rick Kurish said...

Dan, While I only patronized Dog & Suds a few times, In the 1960s I was a regular customer of the A&W Root beer chain. Nothing better as a teenager, than to pull into an A&W on a summer evening, for a chili dog, a root beer, and to flirt with the car hops!

I remember there was quite a large write up in the paper when the last A&W on Liberty Ave, in Vermilion closed a number of years ago. I believe it was one of the last A&W drive-ins still active.

Dan Brady said...

Hi Rick,
I have the same memories as you! My parents took us to the Vermilion A&W many times in the 1960s (I don't even remember the one in Lorain just west of Leavitt on Lake Road).

As for Dog 'n Suds, although I write about it a lot, I don't remember my parents ever taking us there. But I've tried to make up for it by going there as often as I can.