Threatened: Texas Drive-Through Restaurant
By Sarah Marloff | Online Only | Nov. 10, 2010
In Beaumont, Tex., stands one of the state's last remaining Pig Stand Restaurants. Built in 1941 and known as Number 41, the midcentury modern building has a circular, space-age roof highlighted by bands of neon tubing. Closed for five years, it is now in danger of being torn down and replaced by a convenience store.
A franchise that started in Dallas in 1921, the Pig Stand was America's first drive-through restaurant chain, with ties to the creation of Texas Toast, onion rings, and chicken-fried steak. The restaurants were popular local hangouts until 2005, when the chain filed for bankruptcy.
In 2008 trio of businessmen purchased the restaurant site. The three men, Abdulla Moosa, Saleem Meghani ,and Hamidullah Habib, own a handful convenience stores and an Exxon gas station in Port Arthur. They originally planned to demolish the Pig Stand to build another convenience store.
The Beaumont Heritage Society set up a meeting with Moosa, Meghani, and Habib to explain the significance of the building. "They agreed to lease the restaurant to someone else, and build their store elsewhere on site," according to Darlene Chodzinski, executive director of the Beaumont Heritage Society. (None of the owners could be reached for comment.) So far, however, another buyer has yet to be found.
"Many people hate to see it go. There are a lot of fond memories connected to the place. But unless somebody's willing to do something it's going to do down real fast," says Mark Jacobson, who helped design the current neon sign in the 1980s and is the creator of the Pig Stand Calder Ave. page on Facebook.
Earlier this year, the Society for Commercial Archeology listed Number 41 as one of the country's top 10 endangered buildings. It has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Pig Stand building is "still sound, but the inside needs a lot of work. The equipment isn't salvageable," says Margaret Kondada, the former manager of the restaurant. Kondada says her entire family has, at one time or another, worked at the location. "I worked there for 20 years. When my mom retired after 30 years, I took her spot as manager. But the entire staff was one big family. We stuck together until the very end."
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