A decades-old Waynedale eatery is planning to bring back its well-known car side pick-up and dining service to bring local patrons a little taste of the good, old days.
Don Hall’s Original Drive-In, located at 5202 Bluffton Road, is planning to bring back curbside service to its venerable restaurant, much like it offered throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Management at the location said folks are already excited about the idea!
“The reaction has been very positive,” said Rick Schimmoller, the General Manager of the Bluffton Road location. “And we’re hoping this will bring in some new customers, as well as our returning regulars.”
Schimmoller said he hopes the new offering will give the long-standing establishment a point of difference.
“This was the original Hall’s store when it opened in 1946,” Schimmoller said. “We really think this will give us something different that will make us really stand out.”
The plan is to build six vehicle slots – two wings outside the building, essentially — for cars to pull up and order from the restaurant’s menu. Waitresses will come to the car’s window; there isn’t any speaker system like other drive-ins. And there won’t be any servers on roller skates, Schimmoller said, as insuring such service likely would be a nightmare.
Additional improvements planned for the inside of the location to go with the new service, according to Schimmoller, include new booths, new tabletops, new chairs, new lighting, new tile in the restrooms, a fresh coat of paint for the outside of the building, and some new menu items, although management is still meeting to decide what those might be.
Schimmoller hopes curbside service will be up and running by later this fall.
The return of curbside service marks the return of what was once an overwhelmingly popular offering at the location. As the local youth hangout during that time, teens from local high schools often would spend their Friday and Saturday night “cruising” the Bluffton Road Hall’s – driving by the restaurant to see and hang out with other friends who usually were doing the same.
“On weekends, there would be hundreds of cars, lined from the restaurant, all the way across the Bluffton Road bridge (over the St. Mary’s River),” Schimmoller said. “There were so many cars – at one point – management started charging teens 25 cents just to drive in the business. But, they got a coupon for 25 cents off their food, if they chose to come in and dine here later.”
As someone who used to be one of the teenage “cruisers” at the Bluffton Road site, Linda Smith-Firks has great memories of the restaurant, and what it meant for her youthful weekends.
“It was a great social gathering place,” she said. “There was awesome burgers and cottage fries, and, of course, fast cars and cute guys.”
Smith-Firks, who graduated from Wolf Lake High School in 1966, worked for many years as a hairdresser before retiring from Hall’s Triangle Park restaurant a couple of years ago. She remembers the good times cruising Hall’s in her 1967 Chevelle Super Sport, and hopes the notion is one that will be a success.
“It’s a fun idea, for sure,” she said. “And I guess you don’t always have to look presentable to go and get curbside service. I really hope the idea takes off.”
Schimmoller agreed that the new offering is one he hopes will succeed for this Hall’s – a company with 10 other locations around Fort Wayne — and will help reconnect the restaurant with not just its past, but its future customers, as well.
“It’s going to make us feel good about our restaurant,” he said. “This is our first store, and it’s just got a real connection with the Waynedale community.
“This place has offered a lot of good times from the past, and we hope it will offer a lot of good times again,” Schimmoller said.