Generations of Dick’s customers will remember the man who made cheap burgers and fries an essential part of the Seattle experience.
DICK Spady turned a greasy spoon into a beloved Seattle institution by keeping things simple.
Over six decades, generations of diners have relied on Dick’s Drive-In’s tasty burgers, hand-cut fries and creamy shakes to satisfy their hunger without breaking the bank.
The 92-year-old icon passed away this week, and he will be remembered as a passionate supporter of quality fast food, civic engagement and common-sense business practices.
Dick’s remains relevant because it has hardly changed at all. Sixty-two years after its first location opened in Wallingford, the chain’s six orange-colored stands still only accept cash. Menu options are minimal. The most expensive burger costs $3.10. Ketchup is 5 cents extra. Food is ready fast and available late.
The private, family-owned burger joint still adheres to the elder Spady’s business philosophy: Keep customers satisfied, make money, then support employees because they are the key to long-term success.
“Once you’ve taken care of your people and you’re making a profit, you should make an investment in your community,” Spady’s son, Jim, said in a 2013 interview about his dad’s rules. “And if you have a healthy community, you’ll have a good business in the long run.”
Indeed, Dick’s has participated in countless charity events on its own and in tandem with other local institutions. And even before Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage, Dick’s was already paying employees at least $10 and offering them perks that are unusual by fast-food-industry standards. The company has awarded loyal workers more than $1 million in scholarships.
Education and upward mobility were important to Spady, a war veteran who was the first in his family to graduate from college under the GI Bill.
He relished consistency and hearing people say, “Dick’s Drive-In is like a member of the family.”
That’s the powerful legacy he leaves behind.