Franchise News

Del Taco founder Ed Hackbarth makes appearance at grand opening of Corona location

The Tuesday grand opening of a Del Taco in Corona was more like a reunion.

While the family that owns the franchise was out front getting pictures taken with the Corona Chamber of Commerce, Del Taco’s founder was sitting in the dining room with members of his family. Ed Hackbarth, 85, was a player in the fast food revolution that started in San Bernardino in the 1950s. His story is intertwined with Taco Bell, Naugles, Wienerschintzel, and Bakers Drive-Thru. And it’s still unfolding.

Hackbarth who lives in Dana Point, said that on Monday he was cleaning tables at Barstow No. 1, one of three Del Tacos in the desert town that he kept when he sold off the chain in the 1970s. The chain got its start in nearby Yermo in 1964, serving travelers on the way to Nevada.

“When I opened my first Del Taco in Yermo, I called it my slot machine because everybody went to Vegas. Now I call all three of them slot machines. I’ve got to keep them going.” Hackbarth got his start working for Glen Bell, of Taco Bell fame. He bought Bell’s restaurants to start Del Taco.

Hackbarth went on to mentor one of his Yermo employees, Dick Naugle, who went on to found the Naugles chain. Naugle copied his menu, Hackbarth said. “I had the foundation, but it was OK,” he said. “I don’t care about competition. It’s just every customer. How do you wait on him?”

In the 1980s, Hackbarth mentored Linda Oldfield, who has known him for 38 years and calls him a humble man. Oldfield heads CJR Restaurants, which owns the Corona franchise. Oldfield said he has recently been checking on the Corona restaurant nearly every day.

Although Oldfield’s company has five other restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange counties, this one on 2260 Frontage Road was a big deal.

Until four years ago, Oldfield had a Del Taco on the site. It was torn down in the belief that the land would be needed for the 91 Freeway expansion that was completed last year. But the family was able to rebuild five feet from the original footprint.

The new Del Taco is state-of-the-art, said Oldfield’s daughter Janice Vanderwheel, with a longer drive-through, expanded parking lot, bigger dining room, and display case for fresh, hand-prepared produce behind the cash registers.

Del Taco has a long history in Corona. Hackbarth partnered with Naugle on the chain’s first drive-through, built in 1964 on Third Street land owned by Dave Jameson, a member of a local citrus-growing family. Because of Jameson, Del Taco headquarters were in Corona for awhile.

Hackbarth was joined at Corona with sons Jerry and Eugene and Eugene’s wife Priscilla, who all have history with Del Taco. Priscilla brought a yellow headscarf that was part of her uniform as an employee.

“That was my first job,” she said. “When I was 16 I got hired in Montebello. 1978. We wore white pants. We wore a yellow apron, the same color as the headscarf.

“Shortly thereafter my husband started working there, and the rest is history.”
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