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Fountain Drive-In celebrates 50 years in Arlington
ARLINGTON — “There was this one little old man who kept coming by and telling Fred he would lose his shirt,” laughed Lorita Eoff, Fred’s wife, as they sat together in the Fountain Drive-In, at the corner of Division and Broadway streets in Arlington.
That was 50 years ago and the Eoffs are literally having the last laugh. The Fountain Drive-In that Fred and Lorita started back then, which the unnamed old man predicted would fail, has become a mainstay of downtown Arlington. The Eoffs celebrated the Fountain Drive-In’s 50th anniversary on April 10, and they did a lot of laughing as they shared their memories of the family business.
“Fred kept looking at this empty corner and saying there ought to be a drive-in here,” said Lorita Eoff, who recalled how Fred had worked at a drive-in through all four years of high school in California. “Finally, I just told him to put up or shut up.”
Fred Eoff noted that Arlington was a very different place when the Fountain Drive-in first opened its doors, which is reflected in the restaurant’s identity.
“There used to be a fountain at the end of the road, which is where we got our name from,” Fred Eoff said.
“That fountain was there until they put Highway 530 through here,” said Winona Eoff, Fred and Lorita’s daughter, who’s since taken over running the business from her folks. “We still had rural roads with gravel when we started.”
Lorita Eoff laughed as she remembered how Winona began carrying customers’ orders out to their cars when she was still just a toddler.
“All of her friends were so jealous,” Lorita Eoff said. “All three of our kids have worked here, but unlike her older brothers, she chose to stay with the business.”
Fred Eoff estimated that hundreds of high school kids have worked at the Fountain Drive-In over the past 50 years, with close to a dozen currently employed at the restaurant, while Winona Eoff echoed her parents’ words of appreciation to the Arlington community for supporting them for five decades.
“We owe a lot to our loyal customers,” Winona Eoff said. “So many of them have been coming in since they were just knee-high. Even when they move away, some of them as far as Texas and Alaska, they still remember us when they come back.”
Besides their customer service, the Eoffs cite the food itself as their major draw, with hearty fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and milkshakes among their most popular menu items.
“It does seem improbable that we should have lasted this long,” Fred Eoff said.
“Fred had a good eye on the future,” Lorita Eoff said. “It’s been a blessing how good this town has been to us, and we just want to tell them thank you, thank you, thank you.”