Back In 1962, This Little Walk-Up Window Was The Original Taco Bell

Feb 17, 2016

I'm gonna come right out and say it: I'm a taco fiend. All my friends and family will attest to that fact. I love tacos in pretty much all shapes and sizes. That being said, I probably do prefer soft-shell tacos in the authentic Mexican style, while my wife loves her hard-shells like she grew up eating here in the States. I find it really interesting that "taco" can mean two totally different things to people. 

For a lot of Americans, their main exposure to tacos has been limited to whatever is being served at Taco Bell. For a long time, this was the closest access anyone had to Mexican flavors, even though the chain specializes in hard-shell tacos (a mostly North American invention) that would be considered odd in Mexico. Taco Bell offered a chance to try something different, and today the chain is comparable to other major players in fast food like Subway, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. in size and popularity. Of course, every success story usually has a humble beginning.

Taco Bell is a major international brand today, with thousands of restaurants worldwide and billions in revenue annually ...

Spartan Shops Dining Services

... but it all started with this humble restaurant in Downey, California in 1962. 

Huffington Post

The original restaurant was basically just a kitchen with a walk-up window for customers to order and receive food. There were a few chairs around the patio and everything cost just 19 cents!

It was founded by Glen Bell (hence Taco Bell). 


He's the "Taco Titan" who turned this: 

Honest Cooking


Into this:


The hard-shell taco was still a relatively novel idea at this time and set him apart from many of the competing taquerias in the area. Bell also had the advantage of opening his store on one of Downey's busiest streets during an economic boom (Downey was a major center of aerospace engineering back then). 

Business took off pretty quickly.

Huffington Post

Interesting fact: although Taco Bell's motto today is "Think outside the bun," back in the day they served an item called the "Bellburger" - essentially a cheeseburger made of taco meat, served with a spicy sauce. It was later replaced by another burger, known as the Bell Beefer, before burgers disappeared from their menus altogether.

Bell had always intended for the store to be a chain and quickly licensed out a few franchises in the southern California region. This is Kermit Becky, the very first franchisee in 1965.

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Burritos are listed twice because they were served with a choice of red or green salsa.

It turned out Californians couldn't get enough of the Tex-Mex fast food, and new locations opened up all across the state.



With success came marketing and commercials.


Oh, the commercials.

Remember this guy??

Seattle Times

Sometime in the 1980s, the now-corporate Taco Bell shut down numerous locations as part of a major brand overhaul. The original Downey store was one of them. Still, the building remained and has housed several businesses over the decades - including another taco shop (taqueria)!

Huffington Post

Ironically, there was a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut combo just across the street, which can be seen in the background of this photo.

Huffington Post

Recently, developers wanted to tear down the store to redevelop the lot since it sits on prime real estate. The Downey Conservancy, a local preservation group, was tipped off by the property management company and they got in touch with Taco Bell's corporate office to see what could be done. After a feasibility study was conducted, it was determined that the store could be moved closer to Taco Bell's corporate headquarters in Irvine, California. 

In November 2015, the 400-foot store was loaded onto a truck and moved over to Irvine, where it can still be seen today.

Via: Huffington Post

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