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Bob's Affected Oregon in More Ways Than Just HamburgersKevin Hays Salem-News.com
Remember: “It’s not just a burger, it’s a BOB’s!”
(SALEM, Ore. ) - Oregon was blessed to have a man who saw a vision of how a fast food chain should operate -- by selling quality food at low prices, and treating their employees right -- that vision became Bob’s Hamburgers.
Bob Corey‘s mission statement was clear from the beginning: “Customers are our most valuable asset. They are highly perishable and must be treated as such. The customer is ALWAYS right. If we maintain a clean restaurant, treat him with courtesy, serve him the highest quality food, and make him feel we sincerely appreciate his business, he will be back. He is the one who is paying the bills. He makes our jobs possible. He is KING. Make him feel like it.”
Corey was the founder of the Bob's Hamburgers chain which began in Salem in 1955, with his first location at Capitol and Hood Street. He offered hamburgers at 19-cents, french fries for 11-cents, a shrimp burger for 39-cents, milkshakes 21-cents, and soft drinks a whopping 10-cents.
He and his family grew the fast food chain into a Willamette Valley, and Central Oregon hot-spot with restaurant locations in Salem, Keizer, West Salem, and the Lancaster Mall, as well as stores in Bend, Redmond, Springfield, Eugene, and Junction City. At one time there were also locations in Grants Pass and Medford. The stores were all closed by 2001.
When Salem-News.com was the first to announce the return of Bob’s to the Oregon State Fair this year by Gina Dankenbring, who managed a Salem Bob’s Restaurant for five years, and has owned Golden Grill Concessions for the past 13 years, nobody could have imaged the kind of responses that came pouring in.
And not just from Oregon, but from across North America, and as far away as Spain, people have told Salem-News.com they are already making plans now to come to this year’s Oregon State Fair to get a taste of Bob’s legendary burgers and sauce, and to tell their children, grandchildren, or even great grandchildren, their stories that made Bob’s such a special place.
Corey, now 95 years young, plans to make his appearance on opening day of the fair, August 22, along with his son Scott Corey and grandson Justin Corey to meet and greet their loyal fans.
The booth will also be selling bottles of his famous sauce during the state fair.
The best news is that 100 percent of the net sales from the bottled secret sauce as well as a percentage of the gross food sales will be donated directly to Bob Corey's non profit Chemeketa scholarship fund, Golden Grill Concessions owner Gina Dankenbring said.
These stories are from former Bob’s Hamburgers employees in their own words. I hope you enjoy their stories, as they take us through a special time in Oregon fast food history.
Worked for Bob’s for 21+ years. I started in 1979 at 14-years-old and stayed nearly until the bitter end. Bob’s was my favorite place to eat as a child. We lived on the corner of 5th and Hood so just a few blocks away from Capitol St. until I was 7.
When Bob’s first introduced the Big Brute, they had a contest to “Win your height in Big Brutes” at each location. I wanted that so badly, and my dad actually won at the Capitol St. Store. I was SO excited!
As I got older, I picked berries and such as most kids did back then but as soon as I was old enough, I wanted to work at Bob’s. My sister already had a job there, so she took me down and introduced me to the manager at Capitol who said he’d hire me, but I was waiting on my SS card and my work permit.
Once I had those, he didn’t have a position open, so he referred me to the Lancaster store where I went to work. I really learned the value of a job well done and most importantly, I learned the value of exceptional customer service.
As many before me have said, the things that I learned working at Bob’s have been carried through my entire career.
I met my wife at Bob’s when we were both 20 years old. She was from Corvallis and decided to make a change and move to Salem. At the time, she was working for Bob’s on NW 5th in Corvallis, or maybe it was Kings Blvd? Anyway, she transferred to the Capitol St. store where I was working and moved to Salem.
The first night I worked with her (we were closing the store on a Friday night Gut night in 1986), we were finishing up and she was mopping the back room by the sinks. When I came around the corner, she happened upon a small fry that hadn’t been swept up on the floor. Not knowing I was there, she kicked it under the sink and continued mopping. I gave her the worst time about that and we laughed and laughed over that and I knew then that she was the right one for me.
Of course, after 28 years I still have to remind her of that incident from time to time.
We were married in July 1988 and have been together ever since. Many fellow Bob’s employees attended our wedding including Bob Corey himself as well as his son Doug. That’s just the way we were at Bob’s. One big happy family! We did everything together.
Bob sold the company in 1990 to Bill Howard who was the driving force behind Bobs’ new image and expanded menu. All the stores were remodeled and new ones were built. It was an exciting time for Bob’s.
Times change and so do market conditions and Bill sold the company in 1999. Things were already looking down in the market and they didn’t improve so the end was apparently near for the company.
By this time I had been working in the business office and I moved on to Pepsi. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Bob’s was all I knew and cared about.
I stayed on with them after that as a consultant to help with any needs or questions they may have until I got the call that “today at 4:00 p.m. was the last day”.
I went to the Capitol St. store and shared hugs and condolences and served the very last customer on Drive Thru that day. I recently told Bob that he had the honor of serving the first Bob’s Hamburger at that store and I had the sad honor of serving the last.
Amy C. Payton
The stories I could tell of this neighborhood icon.
In my family it was a tradition to work for Bob's Hamburgers. It started with my brother Mike Patton who worked at the store on the gut in the late 70’s and thru the 80’s.
Brothers Jim and Steve followed. I started at Lancaster Drive Bob's in 1983 and worked there for 6 years as I went through high school and college under the management of Chellie Eggleston.
One of the things I always appreciated about Chellie was, she understood school came first and she built our schedules around our classes. She was so supportive of those of us in college.
I have a photo of an award from Bob’s that hangs in my office to this day.
I swear I could write a book about "Everything I Need to Survive In Business, I Learned at Bob's"!
I am currently as a Major in the Oregon Army National Guard I still use some of the hard learned lessons I learned when I was there.
Bob's Hamburgers will always hold a special place in my heart, mostly because I met my husband of 18 years there.
I worked at the Bob's location in the Lancaster mall for about 3 years. My husband, Troy Hilfiker, worked in the Bob's warehouse and in several of the stores, including the one on Lancaster Drive.
One day I was asked to go and help at the Lancaster location. I was just leaving my shift as he was clocking on to start his. The story goes, as my sister tells it, he noticed me walking across the street heading back to the mall.
He looks out the window, perks up and says, "Who's that?" My sister, who worked there also, slugs him in the shoulder and tells him to not even think about it, because I was her sister, and there was no way I would date him.
The short story is that we did end up dating, and have been married now for almost 19 years, and have two wonderful children.
I later learned that not only had my husband worked there, but so did his parents, as well as his siblings. His dad went on to become the Vice-President of the company.
We've often said that if it wasn't for Bob's Hamburgers, and my sister, we would never have met. Cherished memories for sure!
Retta Swartzendruber Edling
In April of 1980 our crew opened the new Bob’s on Wallace Road. I was in the last half of my senior year and loved getting out of school to work.
Before I go any further, I must admit that I was a bit of a “teacher’s pet”. I went to a parochial boarding school and grew up on a ranch, so I took direction well and knew how to work. Sometimes I babysat for the boss’s daughter. He was a very patient man.
A fun memory for me was the day Doug Corey and the ad guys came in looking for someone to photograph. They stuck me up against the white cooler wall with a tray of Bob’s food in my hands and snapped away. They were vague about why they wanted the photo.
One day I was stunned to look up and see a rendering of my likeness grinning from a billboard. I saw the same drawing in the newspaper ads. As an adult, I even saw the ad running when I came back to Salem to visit my family.
Usually, I worked the drive through window. For hours every day I would say “Welcome to Bob’s. May I take your order please?” when the bell rang. Often I automatically answered my own phone that way. For years after, and occasionally today when I am a little tired, I still have to catch myself.
One of the most memorable events was an ad campaign for the Orange Bang. We were all told to wear 3 buttons that told the customer to ask us about the Bang - yes they did. The other girls and I were so mortified, and after a few days some of us just quit wearing them because we were so disgusted by the snickering guys and their questions.
John Steinmetz was our manager. Don, the manager from South Salem came to help out, as well as Bobby who later became the manager of the Redmond store. There was a cast of characters who were alternately annoying, hilarious and snarling and always great people to have on a work crew.
From my time at Bob’s, I learned about efficiency, dollar production and how a restaurant makes a profit. I found that if you slice a lot of onions, your nails break off. I saw that complaining employees were a pain in the backside.
I discovered eating cheeseburgers with ham on them, putting ice cream in an Orange Bang and coffee, and eventually disliked soda pop. Later when I moved to South Salem, Don hired me at South. He was fun to work for, too. From Don I learned that a fast food manager should not hire someone who looks like they won’t or can’t clean a toilet.
When I left to be a ski bum in Sun Valley before college, they graciously held the door open for my return. Those are the only stories I’m telling.
If the crew that stood up Bob’s West is reading this, you guys were a lot of fun and a made it a great place for a kid fresh of the ranch to work. Thanks.
Pablo 'a Luncha - Pleiku RVN, 4th INF DIV, 2/1 Calvary
In from the field Christmas '67. Received an expensive food sampler from the Robert Corey Family in Keizer. Didn't know them but wrote back, told them about the Highlands and the hot rod I was going to' build when I got out.
Mrs. Corey wrote back. She said it sounded like I knew the route the kids took in Salem. She said they were at the North end of the loop -- WE'RE THE BOBS!
Couldn't believe it! 10,000 miles from home and I get a letter from where the hot cars hung out! Sent Christmas cards for several years. They'd always include some "Free Burgers & Fries" business cards signed by them.
Hope to meet them on opening day and thank them. Five of us even had a cheeseburger eating contest one time. I stopped after nine. The winner wolfed down 15, but they didn't stay down on the way home.
Thanks to everyone who's working to have them at the fair.
I think I may have teared up a bit with this announcement.
I remember every Sunday after church, a big group of us kids would head over to Bob's burgers and spend the afternoon.
I was the little one of the group, but could put away more cheeseburgers then anyone else. That seriously was a highlight of my childhood, and something that my children have not gotten to experience.
I would love to share of glimpse to my children. I am just hoping that maybe if this adventure with Bob's goes well, they will open at least one restaurant. I promise I will be there at least once a week if not more. Let's Bring It Bob's!
In the coming weeks, there will be a special application for former Bob’s employees interested in reliving their glory days with Bob’s. Keep watching the Golden Grill Concessions page on Facebook for more information on that. Also there are plans for a Bob’s Wall of Fame, so send in your pictures now on the Golden Grill Concessions page on Facebook.
Salem-News.com plans to give a copy of this story and the original story to Mr. and Mrs. Corey and their family as a keep sake so they can remember the good times, and the stories people from all over the world have about their experience either working or eating at Bob’s.
So please, feel free to add your story or comment at the end of this article, and let the Corey’s know just what Bob’s meant to you.
The Oregon State Fair runs August 22 through September 1 in Salem. Discounted admission tickets are on sale now.
Old Bob's Television Commercial: Courtesy of Allen Wright
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