Family-owned business celebrates 5 decades in Salt Lake City

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SALT LAKE CITY -- We've heard a lot the past year about companies laying off employees and cutting back on products and services. But there's a homegrown Utah company that's still at it, and has been for years.

It's one of Salt Lake's most well-known places to eat: Hires Drive-in. The first store on 700 East and 400 South opened 50 years ago this month. The family that owns it wants customers to join in on the celebrating.

When you visit the restaurant, you'll see the hamburger paddies sizzling and fries crisping the fryer. As the car hops hop from window to outside, the tables inside are filling up with families. It's just another lunch rush at Hires.

"It's gotta be the food, because people come and they love the food. It's comfort food to them," says Mark Hale, who's father,Don Hale, founded the restaurant.

Customer Tom Mabey agrees. "They have great cheese burgers, and it's a local institution. And it's fun to come here; brings back some old memories. Been coming here for a lot of years," he says.

Don Hale and his wife, Shirley, opened Hires Drive-In in October of 1959. Don grew up working in his grandparents' grocery store and, over the years, learned a thing or two about fresh food. He brought that knowledge to the drive-in.

Mark says that strategy keeps the business going.

"For the most part, everything we make our self. All of it is our own recipes," he says. "We grind our own hamburger. We make our own chili, our own veggie patties; cook chicken breasts; make our own salad dressings."

Hires has a number of regulars--people who come in every couple of days or so. Celebrities and sports stars have also stopped by Hires for years.

To mark the 50th anniversary, the Hale family is holding a couple of contests. Customers are already submitting commemorative T-shirt designs to the company website. You can also share a favorite story about Hires online--winners will get free food.

In the competitive world of fast food, Hires has certainly held its own.

"Hopefully, we'll be carrying on the traditions for another 50 years or 100 years," Mark says.

The Hires "Big H" burger goes for $3.85 today. Fifty years ago, it was 30 cents.

Besides the original store on 700 East, Hires also has restaurants in Midvale and West Valley City.



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Keith McCord


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