"We want Dick's! We want Dick's!" the crowd of about 1,000 hungry customers chanted. "We want Dick's! We want Dick's!"
Thea Miklasiewicz, 54, of Edmonds, was first in line. She arrived at 3:20 a.m. Thursday for the honor, saying she's been a fan of Dick's burgers since childhood.
"When I was a child, my dad used to come home with 20 Dick's burgers every Wednesday night," she said. "There were five of us kids. We always looked forward to Wednesdays."
She was going to do like her father did, bring home a bunch of Dick's burgers to feed her son and his friends.
Kirsten Holm, of Everett, has been going to Dick's since she was 6 years old. Now 48, she drives to Seattle two or three times a month ("sometimes more," she said) to satisfy her Dick's burger hunger.
"It's kind of a drive," she admitted.
At long last, Holm and other Snohomish County fans of the beloved Seattle drive-in no longer have to burn gas driving into Seattle to satisfy their craving for what many people consider the best cheap hamburger around.
Standing patiently in line before ceremonies to mark the restaurant's opening, Holm planned to order a Dick's Deluxe burger, fries, a chocolate shake and two tartar sauces. When she finally got her order and cleared away from the jam-packed counter, she was grinning from ear to ear.
The opening of the sixth Dick's Drive-In has been a long time coming.
The first Dick's opened in Seattle's Wallingford District on NE 45th Street in 1954. Other outlets followed in 1955, 1960 and 1963 in north Seattle neighborhoods. It opened its fifth restaurant near the Seattle Center in 1974. The three partner families decided then that they wouldn't open another restaurant until they paid off their debt.
The Spady family, with namesake founder Dick, bought out the other partners about 20 years ago. Then the flagship restaurant in Wallingford needed remodeling.
Jim Spady, one of Dick's sons who now runs the business, said expansion had long been planned, once the debts from the buyout and the Wallingford remodel were paid off. It all started coming together in 2010, thanks to low interest rates, a good contractor and the willingness to build again.
"You have to have the courage to take on a lot to expand," Spady said.
An online poll last year pointed to the Spadys' expansion north, beating out possible locations south and east of Seattle. The Spadys bought property in front of Top Food and Drug on Highway 99 at 220th Street SW.
The chanting crowd that filled the cordoned-off parking lot certainly seemed happy with the decision as they trickled away from the order windows.
"I was standing in line when a burger hit me in the chest, so I said, 'I'm out of here!' " said Jeff Lageson, of Edmonds. "I'll come back later tonight when the crowds die down."
As one of 13 winners in a Dick's online contest, Rowland Morgan, 43, of Ballard, was the first customer to place an order at the new restaurant. He said he's been a lifelong Dick's customer and always went to the Wallingford or Lake City Dick's near his high school.
"As soon as you got your driver's license, you'd skip school and go to Dick's for lunch," he said.
It's been his habit ever since.
He placed his usual order: a Deluxe, a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. As usual, he was not disappointed.
"It's what it's like every time," Morgan said.
Chris Carothers, of Brier, was clearly overjoyed to be one of the first customers to walk off with his order of eight deluxes, a special, two shakes and three pops for his gathered friends.
"It's glorious!" Carothers declared.
Kurt Batdorf is editor of the Snohomish County Business Journal.
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