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The Forgotten History Of The World’s First Taco Bell, And Today’s Attempt To Save It

  • March 09, 2015

For Glen Bell, a eighth time was a charm.

As Debra Lee Baldwin recounts in her 1999 autobiography Taco Titan

But in 1962, during a age of 38, Bell finally staid down. That March, he non-stop a initial plcae of his third, and final, quick food chain, in a city of Downey, California, 10 miles southeast of downtown LA. He called it Taco Bell.

A infrequent caller to that initial plcae would never have guessed that Taco Bell would eventually turn a multibillion-dollar business it is today. The wood, mortar and section Mission-style building totalled only 20 feet by 20 feet. There was no indoor seating — only a tiny kitchen, an grouping window and a few tables and chairs on a patio. A clay-tile roof, arch-shaped entryways and a vast steel bell set in a form above a opening lent it an atmosphere of frolic — nonetheless no decoration could disguise a radically medium nature.

taco bell downey sixtiesA print of a Downey plcae from a mid-1960s

Yet a nascent Taco Bell also enjoyed several pivotal advantages. Bell’s before 15 years of entrepreneurship taught him a horde of essential lessons, and helped him ideal his hard-shell taco, a newness during a time. And this tiny taco mount was ideally positioned for success on Firestone Boulevard, one of a busiest streets in Downey — a boomtown in 1962. It was one of a country’s centers of aerospace engineering starting in a ’40s, as a NASA trickery in Downey built many of a spaceship components for a Apollo Project.

The Downey plcae thrived. Bell, who had always dictated for Taco Bell to be a chain, non-stop 8 some-more locations over a subsequent dual years. He started franchising Taco Bells in 1965 — and by Jan 1967, 100 Taco Bells dotted a whole L.A. region. From there, a chain’s expansion was exponential. Bell sole Taco Bell to PepsiCo in 1978 for $130 million, and a soda giant’s probably sum store of collateral authorised a sequence to enhance even further.

Eventually, Taco Bell outgrew that initial plcae in Downey. In a mid-1980s, a sequence underwent a vital code overhaul, upgrading many of a restaurants and shutting down some antiquated locations. The Downey plcae was one of those that tighten down.

No one seems to have paid many courtesy to a closure of a strange Taco Bell. Few, apparently, even knew it was

The Press-Telegram essay pronounced that a building seemed “slated for demolition” once Taco Bell vacated a premises. But it lingered. Over a following 3 decades, it was home to several opposite businesses — many recently, a taqueria called Tacos Raul. In Dec 2014, though, Tacos Raul altered 4 and a half miles away, to Compton, withdrawal a building vacant.

The owners of a skill motionless that a vast lot on primary Firestone Boulevard could be put to a some-more essential use than an old, 400-square-foot taqueria. That month, a skill government association reached out to a Downey Conservancy, a internal refuge group, to contend that they dictated to redevelop a lot, that would meant ripping down a strange Taco Bell building.

“We were kinda lucky,” George Redfox, a member of a Downey Conservancy, said. “Generally we find out about these forms of things when a bulldozer is already on a property, that can make it unequivocally tough to do anything about it.”

The Downey Conservancy churned into action, promulgation out press releases to several internal publications, manywhichpickedstorymid-Januarysent out a amicable media call

Taco Bell member also approached a Downey Conservancy to ask if how they could help, and finished adult similar to compensate between $8,000 and $10,000 for a investigate to establish a feasibility of relocating a structure to a new location, pronounced Matt Prince, a Taco Bell press representative.

Katie Rispoli, a member of a Downey Conservancy who also runs a nonprofit that specializes in relocating ancestral buildings, pronounced she is assured that a building can be moved.

“My viewpoint is that there’s no vital constructional barrier here,” she said. “I’m tighten to 100 percent certain it can be done. It’s a matter of time, income and stability to concur with a skill owners, who have been really useful so far.”

Rispoli has already started researching a story of a building, and skeleton to start conducting a feasibility investigate itself in a matter of weeks. She hopes to be means to pierce a building to another tract of land this summer. She estimates that a sum cost of relocating and restoring a building would be about $400,000, not including a cost of purchasing land to offer as a new home, that has not nonetheless been decided.

On Friday, Rispoli led me and Prince, a Taco Bell representative, on a debate of a property. The once-beige masquerade has been embellished orange, and a elaborate edifice above a opening that once housed a suggested bell was broken in a glow a few years ago.

original taco bell

Here’s a print of a walk-up grouping window:


Next doorway to a Taco Bell building is another decayed Mission-style structure designed by Glen Bell. It was creatively a tiny frame mall called Plaza Guadalajara, and in Taco Titan

plaza guadelajara

Ironically, there’s a Taco Bell-KFC multiple store roughly directly opposite a travel from a strange Taco Bell plcae — we can see it in a credentials of a print below. Prince pronounced it’s been there given a mid-1990s.

other taco bell

As many as things have changed, though, this print comparison shows that a lot has also stayed a same.

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