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Saturday, October 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane’s first McDonald’s on North Monroe coming down to make way for a new one

UPDATED: Wed., May 24, 2017

Spokane’s first McDonald’s restaurant on North Monroe is coming down to make room for an updated McDonald’s at the same location.

Framework of the original 1963 hamburger stand is contained within a larger structure that has stood at the site at 6321 N. Monroe St. since 1979.

The restaurant was notable as the training ground for today’s owners, members of the Ray family of Spokane.

Demolition is expected to start this week with construction taking until mid-September, when a reopening is expected, said Tom Korth, director of operations for several McDonald’s restaurants in Spokane.

He said replacing the old McDonald’s has been under discussion for several years.

The structure was becoming more costly to maintain as years went along, Korth said.

The twin arches on the sign along Monroe Street also will be removed because the sign is beyond its useful life, he said.

Originally configured as a walk-up, the first McDonald’s opened on Oct. 22, 1963, under the ownership of a Danish immigrant, Pete Clausen.

It was the first McDonald’s in Eastern Washington and reportedly the fifth in the state, according to news files.

The announcement in 1959 of the pending arrival of the first McDonald’s in Spokane was made by Ray Kroc, who went on to purchase the chain and became fabulously wealthy as a result.

A news story said the chain grossed $11 million in 1958.

The original building on Monroe was 30-by-34 feet and had a basement.

Korth said that McDonald’s restaurants do not have basements these days, so the existing basement will be filled and covered with the concrete slab for the new building.

The new restaurant will have two drive-thru windows instead of one; kiosks for customers who want to order in a different way; and a handful of seats with outlets for high-tech devices.

Jim Nelson, of Spokane, sold newspaper advertising to Clausen in those early years and remembers the opening as a big deal in Spokane.

“People came from all around town,” Nelson said. “Traffic was backed up and everything.”

McDonald’s at the time specialized in 15-cent hamburgers that were prepared ahead of time so that customers could grab their burgers and go.

Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald started their first hamburger stand in 1943 in San Bernardino, California, pioneering the fast-food concept.

In 1961, the McDonalds sold the rights to the business to Ray Kroc for $2.7 million. Kroc had been the McDonalds’ agent starting in the mid-1950s.

McDonald’s pioneered the concept of franchising so the company could form a nationwide chain without a heavy capital investment.

According to the McDonald’s website, Kroc was stunned by the effectiveness of the operation as well as the simplicity of the menu when he visited the original McDonald’s early on.

A decade after Kroc purchased the rights to McDonald’s, the chain was estimated to be worth $500 million.

Today, McDonald’s operates 36,000 restaurants in 100 countries.

Clausen, who got the franchise for the first McDonald’s in Spokane, immigrated to the U.S. in 1955 and married an Illinois woman, settling in a town not far from Des Plaines, Illinois, which was Kroc’s home base.

Because he was acquainted with the Kroc operation, Clausen obtained the franchise for the first Spokane store, according to a 1964 profile of Clausen in The Spokesman-Review.

The second McDonald’s in Spokane opened in 1969 at 1061 E. Sprague Ave.

Over a period of about 10 years, McDonald’s had expanded to 1,200 restaurants at the time.

The news story said, “McDonald’s customers get their own orders from a self-service window, and an assembly-line technique can deliver them a hamburger, French fries and a drink in 50 seconds.”

Mark Ray, of Spokane, joined McDonald’s in 1964, starting as a “shakeman” at the North Monroe restaurant while attending Gonzaga University.

He and his brothers were from Tacoma. Mark Ray graduated from Gonzaga in 1967.

His younger brother, Cory Ray, also worked for McDonald’s while attending Whitworth College, now Whitworth University.

Brother Rock Ray joined McDonald’s in 1974.

Clausen sold his interest to the Ray brothers and an officer manager, Joan Ursich, in 1980, news files said.

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