7 of the Oldest and Earliest Taco Bell Locations

Spread the love

Taco Bells are now ubiquitous American-Mexican fast-food joints that fuel hungry college kids all up and down this nation. The Oldest Taco Bells, both those still in operation and those that closed long ago, remain interesting subjects of corporate culinary history. Read on for a breakdown of the oldest Taco Bells.

7. Springfield Location

Year: 1968
Location: Springfield, Ohio
Status: The first Taco Bell east of the Mississippi

Springfield Locationphoto source: Locations.Tacobell

In 1968, the first Taco Bell east of the Mississippi was opened in Springfield, Ohio. The original proprietor of that restaurant was named Jim Lopez, who died in 2016 at the age of 82. If you went into that location in 1968 and on, he probably made your tacos for you!

Lopez was a well-known local name in food. He owned and operated Big Jim’s Coney’s & Subs, which aside from being just about the most 50s restaurant name ever also made him the natural choice for this historic Taco Bell. Taco Bell came all the way from San Diego to ask him to open the first location on that side of the country right there on East Main Street. And he did.

DID YOU KNOW?

By 1978, Taco Bell became so big that PepsiCo offered to buy it for $130 million, an offer that its creator, Glen Bell, accepted. This was the major reason that Taco Bells were able to explode in the 80s. With Pepsi’s brand strength and practically limitless capital behind it, the Taco Bell brand had every advantage in the world.


6. Anaheim Location

Year: 1967
Location: Anaheim, California
Status: The 100th Taco Bell

Anaheim Locationphoto source: Waymarking

By 1967, Taco Bell had opened 100 locations throughout the Los Angeles area, including the famous 100th restaurant itself, in Anaheim. At this point, the Taco Bell brand had proven itself worthy of even more expansion, which is why PepsiCo bought it in the first place.

After the first hundred locations took off, Pepsi knew they had a winner, bought the place, and started some expansion plans of their own. By the 80s, Taco Bell was given the major corporate brand renewal that turned it from Bell’s quaint downtown taco joint and its franchisees into the mega-corps fast-food giant it is today.

DID YOU KNOW?

As part of this rebranding, PepsiCo shut down a lot of old, outdated restaurant locations. One of these was actually the Downey location, the original Taco Bell (see below).

No one really cared though because, by that point, almost no one knew that that Taco Bell was the very first one! The building’s demolition was delayed, however, and it was sold and converted into other restaurants over the next 30 years.

It was vacated in 2014 and once again slated for demolition. This time, however, the Downey Conservancy stepped in and allowed the building to be moved to a new location. Don’t worry – the original Taco Bell is safe!


5. Laguna Beach Location

Year: 1967
Location: Laguna Beach, California
Status: The third oldest still-operating Taco Bell

Laguna Beach Locationphoto source: Visit Laguna Beach

The third oldest and still-operating Taco Bell opened in 1967 in Laguna Beach. When it was first opened, modeled after the original in Downey, it had an old-fashioned Mexican villa-style look to the storefront and an outdoor counter to order from. It had an outdoor patio and even a natural gas-powered fire pit.

The small-town Laguna Beach community visits the curved façade often to enjoy the tried-and-true tacos that are about to celebrate 55 years of operation!

DID YOU KNOW?

As mentioned, the Laguna Beach location didn’t have any indoor seating areas. In fact, fast-food restaurants did not commonly have dining rooms back then. This was considered contrary to the whole point of “fast” food. In the spirit of soda shops and counter-serve eateries, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell served from an outdoor counter and provided some outdoor seating if they had the room. All the space inside was economized for the kitchen and prep stations.

However, in the 1970s, this Taco Bell was renovated to include an indoor dining area at last.


4. First Taco Bell Franchise

Year: 1964
Location: Torrance, California
Status: The first franchisee locations

First Taco Bell Franchisephoto source: Imgur

Once the first Taco Bell locations outgrew their modest beginnings, Bell needed to franchise the restaurant. This led to the creation of the first round of Taco Bell franchisees.

These first franchises in Torrance, California are testaments to the fledgling brand’s success. It snowballed from these restaurants into the giant that it is today.

DID YOU KNOW?

Taco Bell’s first franchisee was named Kermit Becky. He was a former LA policeman who bought the restaurant in the South Bay area. Like other Taco Bells at the time, this location only served from an outdoor counter. Every food item on the menu cost only 19 cents!


3. Taco Bell No. 2

Year: 1962
Location: Long Beach, California
Status: The second Taco Bell

Taco Bell No. 2photo source: Pinterest

Taco Bell no. 2 is located at the corner of Santa Fe and Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, California and was the second Taco Bell ever created. While the first Taco Bell proved that the restaurant could attract customers, Taco Bell no. 2 proved that the food could become a brand.

Since it opened in the early 60s, Taco Bell no. 2 has been remodeled several times. However, it has kept its traditional walk-up outdoor window. It remains the oldest operating Taco Bell in the world.

DID YOU KNOW?

Long Beach sits right down in Southern California on the verge of Mexico. From this location, Taco Bell attempted to spread to Mexico in 1992. The restaurant had 3,700 restaurants in over a dozen countries. How could it not work in Mexico?

Well for starters, Mexican patrons didn’t know what they were ordering! Crunchy tacos aren’t common outside of Taco Bell, so they had to be renamed “Tacostadas” to try to communicate what they were. That was only the first issue.

From the first Taco Bell in Mexico City, it became apparent that bringing American tacos to a place famed for authentic tacos just wasn’t going to work. The restaurants quickly closed. Another attempt to open Taco Bells in Mexico in 2007 ended in about the same way.


2. Taco Bell No. 1

Year: 1962
Location: Downey, California
Status: The first Taco Bell

Taco Bell No. 1photo source: The Downey Patriot

Glen Bell started seven businesses before arriving here, at the first Taco Bell, in 1962. He had created hamburger stands, taquerias, even a miniature golf course before striking something that worked for him. None of these businesses lasted longer than three years and always ended with Bell selling his shares and getting out.

At 38 years old, SE of Downtown LA in Downey, California, he finally figured it out when he formed a new fast-food chain and called it “Taco Bell,” after himself.

It was a modest building but contained a lot of small innovations. Not least of these was a crunchy taco, which was incredibly uncommon at the time. The Downey location grew and grew until 1964 when the restaurant was franchised. The rest is history.

DID YOU KNOW?

Downey, California was to become a boomtown throughout the 60s, which hugely contributed to the original Taco Bell’s success. The town was an epicenter for NASA’s aerospace engineering infrastructure. The Downey aerospace facility ended up building a lot of the parts that went into the Apollo program. And they ended up causing the quaint Downey streets to boom to life, full of people hungry for tacos.


1. Taco Tia

Year: 1952
Location: San Bernardino, California
Status: Precursor to Taco Bell

Taco Tiaphoto source: Pinterest

The oldest Taco Bell is Bell’s Taco Tia. Okay, we’re fudging the terms a little bit, but hear us out. Glen Bell left the marines in 1946 with the dream of opening a hotdog stand. Bell’s Drive-In in San Bernadino, California was a modest success; Bell sold it in 1952 because he wanted to do better.

This time, he set up a hotdog and hamburger stand again in San Bernadino. Met with fierce competition, he decided to include Mexican take-out on the menu to set his restaurant apart. He resolved to start selling tacos stuffed into pre-fried shells, served quickly and on the go, a rarity at the time. Mexican restaurants did the reverse, stuffing the shells and then frying the whole thing. This was why it took so long.

Bell’s Taco Tia, as it became known, was a big success, which allowed Bell to also manage four El Tacos restaurants in the Southern California area. He sold all these restaurants in the early 60s to get enough money to put what he had learned to the ultimate test and create an all-Mexican fast-food restaurant, which he named after himself – Taco Bell.

DID YOU KNOW?

Downey, California was to become a boomtown throughout the 60s, which hugely contributed to the original Taco Bell’s success. The town was an epicenter for NASA’s aerospace engineering infrastructure. The Downey aerospace facility ended up building a lot of the parts that went into the Apollo program. And they ended up causing the quaint Downey streets to boom to life, full of people hungry for tacos.


The Takeaway

Taco Bell wasn’t always the quesarito-dispensing juggernaut it is today. Before it connected two oceans, before it was bought by Pepsi, and before Godzilla, Batman, and a crazy chihuahua took a bite out of it, Taco Bell was a humble taco stand in Southern California. The above history describes its journey from one man’s dream to a cultural icon.


Spread the love

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *