Midnight Friday, the last person through the line at McDonald’s on Oak Street got the same kind of friendly service that’s been handled at that location since 1974.
And then the line was closed, the lights were turned out, the doors were locked and a bit of history ended.
For a while.
The oldest McDonald’s in town is now closed for a massive rebuilding, inside and out, expected to be completed by Oct. 31, according to owners Ginger and Ray Johnson. The 60 employees have been re-assigned to other Johnson-owned stores in Conway and Maumelle.
The new building will be re-situated on the lot with new entrances and exits and resemble the “swoosh” style of the newest McDonald’s on Dave Ward Drive.
Salter Construction is the contractor.
Ginger Johnson grew up in Conway, and McDonald’s was part of the “cruise” for her friends in the 80s. While sad at the closing, Johnson said she’s thrilled at the exciting changes.
Ray Johnson said inside will be state-of-the art burger-ordering techniques, the same fast and filling food that is McD’s specialty and comfortable surroundings for those who want to come off the Interstate and sit a while.
On Monday morning, others with ties to the first McDonald’s in town gathered to reminisce.
Dale Bruns, former owner and now owner of the McDonald’s stores in Morrilton and Greenbrier, sold to the Johnsons in 2008. Bruns was happy to see Steve Styles, general manager and area supervisor at that location from 1978 until his retirement in 2003.
Styles’ legacy was the recruitment and training of employees, sometimes whole families of them, that have become successful because of their McDonald’s training.
As the Log Cabin Democrat reported on his retirement in 2003, he went to work for McDonald’s in Pine Bluff in 1968 when he was 15 years-old. He’d work the noon crowd, stepping away from Pine Bluff High. There was no drive-through, no place to sit. It was bustling.
“It was a good place for his first job, and it’s a stlll a good place for youngsters to get experience and learn responsibility,” said Dea Wiles, administrative director of McDonald’s.
Styles is a volunteer at the hospital these days, and he says even after 10 years, he often sees some of his former employees, all who are quick to thank him for their early training.
McDonald’s no longer announces how many burgers have been sold, stopping at 99 billion on the Oak Street sign.
Just for fun, Ray Johnson did a little quick math estimating how many “transactions” the 1974 store may have completed in 38 years. At 400,000 a year. Maybe 30 million?
That’s a lot of burgers. That’s a lot of memories.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 505-1234.)