Dick's Drive-In begins serving Seattle hamburgers on January 28, 1954.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 8/08/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3489
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On January 28, 1954, Dick's Drive-In opens to begin serving hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes on NE 45th Street in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. Dick's comes to represent the quintessential 1950s, a cross between fast food and the automobile, quite the place to hang out with your friends with Rock 'n Roll blaring from the car radio -- at least by 1955 when Bill Haley and His Comets hit the charts with "We're Gonna Rock Around the Clock," moving on to 1956 when Elvis comes on the scene with "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," and "Heartbreak Hotel." Dick's Drive-in is started by Dick Spady (1923-2016) and two partners, Warren Ghormley and Dr. "Tom" Thomas, whom Spady will eventually buy out.

A Different Kind of Business

In 1955, Broadway Dick's opened on Capitol Hill. Holman Road Dick's opened in 1960, the Lake City Dick's in 1963, and the Queen Anne Dick's in 1974. Dick's Drive-in in Edmonds opened in 2011.

Dick Spady was born in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 1923. He served in the Navy in World War II and attended Oregon State University on the G.I. Bill. He served in the Korean War as a commissary officer, where he learned a great deal about running a restaurant. 

He was an entrepreneur of burgers, fries, and shakes with a difference. He offered his employees the highest pay in the industry, well above minimum wage. He provided 100 percent paid health-insurance coverage, including to part-time employees. He gave to his employees more than a million dollars in scholarship funds. Spady also gave generous and unremitting support to homeless and community causes, as well as to disaster relief, and public-engagement efforts including sponsoring an initiative that led to the Community Forums Network. 

In 2012 a Seattle mayoral proclamation declared a "Dick's Drive-In Day." Dick Spady died on January 10, 2016, at the age of 92. 

Dick's Drive-In continues to serve up hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes. It has remained a local business owned by the Spady family. Jim Spady, one of the sons of Jim and Ina Lou Spady, serves as president.


"Dick's Drive-in History,"(http://www.ddir.com/Dicks_Drive_In_Restaurants/History.html); "#1 Songs of 1930-1990," Lyrics World Website (http://www.summer.com.br/~pfilho/html/top1/index.html); Bethany Jean Clement, "Co-founder of Dick's Drive-in Gave us Famed Burgers -- and so Much More," The Seattle Times, January 13, 2016, p. A-1; David Gering, "Nostalgia to Go -- Dick's Has Been Seattle's Taste in Burgers for Nearly 35 Years, Ibid., April 24, 1988, p. K-1.
Note: This essay was updated on January 21, 2016.

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