Do you remember when McDonald’s first opened its doors in Washington?

“It was such an exciting day,” said Debbie Klak, who owns a total of eight of the fast-food restaurants with her husband Mike.

“So many people stopped in because it was something really different for Washington, and still today customers tell us about coming in those first few days,” she said.

The Washington McDonald’s was the Klaks first and will always hold a special place in their hearts, but now nearly 36 years later they are getting ready to tear down the old restaurant and build new at the same site off Highway 100.

“It might be a little bittersweet when the walls come down because there’s a lot of history here, but we’re so excited about what the new building will look like, inside and out, and what we’ll be able to offer to our customers,” said Debbie Klak.

“We’re doing this project for our customers,” she said. “We want to give them a fresh new building and it’s a great opportunity to introduce a new design.”

Last Day May 11

Klak said customers can get their last burger or order of fries at the current restaurant Saturday, May 11, during normal business hours of 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Special activities also are being planned for that day, she said.

Then, over the next two days, everything will have to be removed and utilities shut down so demolition can begin Tuesday, May 14.

The new McDonald’s is scheduled to open the first week of August — just in time for the Washington Town and Country Fair, said Klak, which is always a very busy week at the restaurant.

That date also has significance because it was August 1977, when the Klaks first opened here.

“Our decor was actually the Fair — that was the theme for the whole restaurant,” Debbie Klak said.

Since its opening, the Klaks have actually updated or remodeled the restaurant every five years.

“To this day, our Washington restaurant is state-of-the-art and has everything a new store would have because we feel that’s important for our customers and we have a lot of our pride in our restaurants,” she said.

The new restaurant will be about 25 percent larger than the current one, which is about 5,600-square-feet, and it will feature dual drive-through lanes, something the Klaks have wanted for some time.

“We actually had the equipment for it, but not the space,” said Debbie Klak. That problem has been taken care of with the purchase of about 78 feet of the adjacent JCPenney parking lot.

The new restaurant also will have a larger play area for children, which will be musical and have computers for both kids and their parents to play on, as well as more seating and a major change — extended hours.

“We’ll be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week both inside and at the drive-thrus,” Klak said.

New Look

The “fresh new look” will be very contemporary inside and out, she said.

“The colors and design are what I would call upper scale because I feel Washington is an upper-scale community,” she said. “The interior will have lighter colors, down lighting and privacy screens, but no walls. There will be lots of glass and it will be very open and airy.”

The wallpaper for the play area will be childrens’ handprints reaching for the skies.

Even the landscaping will have a very contemporary feel, Klak said.

Earll Construction is the general contractors for the project. This is the same construction company that completed the St. Clair McDonald’s major remodel.

The general contractor for the project is expected to be selected in the next day or two and Klak said local subcontractors will be involved in the project.

Klak stressed that everything inside and out of the current restaurant is being recycled or reused if possible.

For instance, the glass is going to Franklin County Glass, the plants and shrubs will be used at other Klak properties or donated. Some items, like the play equipment, can’t be donated due to safety regulations, but will be recycled.

During construction, Klak said her management staff will be working at one of the other McDonald’s they own. The Washington McDonald’s currently employs about 70 people, many part time, but when it reopens that number will likely climb to closer to 100 due to the projected increase in business volume.

The Klaks own and operate four restaurants in Franklin County — Washington, Pacific, St. Clair and Union — and four in St. Louis County — Allenton, Eureka, Peerless Park and Bowles Avenue, Fenton.

Mike Klak started working for McDoanld’s as a teenager and later as a corporate employee before branching out to operate his own restaurant. This is his 53rd year in association with McDonald’s.