In March, local fast-food chain Burgerville announced the closing of its downtown Vancouver location. Response on Burgerville’s Facebook fan page was immediate and emotional.
Posts such as, “Noooo,” and “Dislike,” and “This is AWFUL!!!” tore through the online community.
Six-months later, the walk-up restaurant officially closed and the wrecking ball tore through the structure.
Since 1961, Burgerville has been a constant on the Northwest fast food scene. The first location was abandoned more than 35 years ago, and because it was out of sight many assumed the downtown restaurant, located on Mill Plain between C and D streets, was the first Burgerville. It was actually the second and known to insiders as Burgerville No. 2.
Burgerville No. 2 hung on, despite the inconvenience of no inside dining room and no drive-thru, and became a favorite lunch spot for many downtown workers. It also became a hub as a meet-up place, and interestingly enough, a magnet for car aficionados.
“I have fond memories of working at the cruise-in they used to have,” posted Burgerville Facebook fan, Chris M. Maitland-Davis. “They had cars parked everywhere.”
Burgerville’s Chief Cultural Officer Jake Graves agreed. “There were people everywhere. It was a very celebratory atmosphere.”
Other memories for Burgerville fans were more distinguished. To celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary the parking lot became the venue of a white tablecloth event.
“We had our staff in tuxedos and serving them – in a very elegant manner – hamburgers, fries and milkshakes,” said Graves.
Other experiences were more painful and left a dent. When non-attentive drivers backed out of the parking spaces in front of the restaurant, the concrete bumpers protecting the pole holding the rotating Burgerville sign sustained some bashing. After closing the restaurant, the sign was removed, but not discarded, and will “show up again,” said Graves.
While the building and the pole sign may have disappeared, an enduring visual remains. According to Graves, Burgerville No. 2 was used as a guideline for a painting that hangs in many of the Burgerville locations. The image also appears on official t-shirts and can be purchased on the company’s website.
When asked if they would reopen downtown, Graves said there is no set location or timetable, but Burgerville is entertaining any ideas that come along.
“We are pursuing it and we will ultimately land something.”
Burgerville, known for its customer service, is also dedicated to its employees. All of the Burgerville No. 2 employees were offered positions at other locations. Most of them took advantage of the offer.
“There were like three or four who were going back to school and opted not to continue,” said Graves. “The rest are scattered around Clark County.”
The transition of these “very experienced and savvy employees has been an interesting phenomenon” said Graves. The transferring staff were eager to learn how to take care of a dining room and a drive-thru, and the knowledgeable employees thrived on teaching.
“It’s bringing a freshness to the other restaurants,” said Jack Graves.
Before the restaurant closed, though, last-chance diners kept the downtown servers busy. On Sept. 4, the day Burgerville No. 2 closed, it probably had one of its best sales days ever.
“I think that says a lot about how that Burgerville has served the community for almost 50 years.”
Have you worked in the fast food industry?
What was your best lesson learned on the job?