Founder of Ray’s Drive-in was a teacher to employees

Barbara Lamoureux runs an Everett real estate business. Katrina Koontz works in community relations at Trinity Lutheran College. Lynda Elwood was in customer service with a phone company. All three trace career success to their long-ago jobs at Ray’s Drive-In.

More than a burger spot, the Broadway restaurant is an Everett institution.

Ray and Ruby Campbell opened Ray’s in 1962, the year of the Seattle World’s Fair. Before I-5 cut through Everett in 1965, Ray’s Drive-In was on the main route from Seattle to points north.

Ray Campbell died Dec. 26. He was 85. Among those at his memorial service Jan. 16 at Everett’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church were many who had once worked at Ray’s. Ruby Campbell died about five years ago, but the business is still owned by the family. Today, the Campbells’ grandson Jeff Doleshel runs Ray’s.

“I’m doing what we’ve done for over 50 years,” said Doleshel, 43. His mother Debbie Campbell operated Ray’s for years after her parents retired.

Doleshel started working at Ray’s in high school. His grandfather, he said, “instilled in me a great work ethic and a do-it-yourself attitude.”

“He was all-business and very gruff, but he was so generous and had a great heart,” Doleshel said. Others who entered the work world at Ray’s agree.

“Everything he told us was a lesson,” said Lamoureux, 69, who founded Lamoureux Real Estate in 1988. She started working at Ray’s in 1963, the year she graduated from Everett High School and entered Everett Junior College.

“We were counter girls. We waited on people at the window until we had been there long enough to be trusted to cook,” Lamoureux said. She remembers cooks getting 15 cents more per hour. In an article for her business newsletter in 1998, Lamoureux wrote that the $1.25 an hour she earned at Ray’s was “the cheapest, best education ever.”

She remembers little things. Putting money in the cash register, the heads on all the bills had to face the same way. And Campbell allowed only one napkin per customer.

There were big things, too. “Much of what I know about business I learned from Ray Campbell,” Lamoureux said. “If someone said ‘I want a hamburger, french fries and a Coke,’ we always learned to ask ‘Will that be a large Coke?’”

Elwood, 69, started working at Ray’s the year it opened. She remembers chopping pickles and onions for tartar sauce. “I did it all,” the Everett woman said. “I will remember his work ethic, fairness, grin and twinkle in his eye,” said Elwood, who went on to work for General Telephone in Everett.

Elwood still has a favorite menu item. While Lamoureux and Doleshel love Ray’s fish and chips, Elwood still orders a cheeseburger — with ketchup instead of relish. “It was 35 cents when I worked there,” she said.

When Koontz worked at Ray’s in the mid-1980s, the founders had retired. Ray and Ruby Campbell spent most of their time in Yuma, Ariz., where they owned a trailer park they later sold.

“I started the summer before high school. I would ride my bike down there,” said Koontz, 42, who now lives in Marysville and is assistant director of community relations for Trinity Lutheran College.

Her boss, Debbie Campbell, was like “a second mom,” Koontz said.

From Ray’s, Koontz said she learned the value of delivering great service and working well with other people. Co-workers often became friends. “Entire weddings in the 1990s, the bridal parties, were Ray’s workers from the 1980s,” she said.

Debbie Campbell, who lives at Tulalip, may have been the youngest worker at Ray’s. “I was 12 when Dad built the place in 1962,” she said. Her father bought a house at the site, 1401 Broadway, and tore it down to build the restaurant.

Campbell said her father would take her on Saturday mornings to the drive-in, where she picked up trash in the parking lot. “Dad might drop a nickel or dime out the window. It would be in a different place each time,” she said.

“He retired pretty young, in his late 40s,” Campbell said. Raised on a farm near what is now Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Ray Campbell left school after 10th grade. “He knew the value of a dollar and squeezed every penny out of it,” his daughter said.

Debbie Campbell is another fan of Ray’s fish and chips. To me, a peanut butter milkshake from Ray’s is heaven — don’t ask how I know that.

Ray’s Drive-In is a place out of the past, with burger baskets and Green River soda on the menu.

“It’s not retro, it’s a dinosaur,” said Doleshel. “I mean that in a good way.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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