A familiar structure at the junction of Highway 100 and Route 47 celebrated its 30th cumpleaños Sept. 26.
Taco Bell’s Washington location opened its doors in 1990. Owned and operated by John Moroney and his business partner, John Waller, through W&M Restaurants, the franchise location was the pair’s answer to a fast-food market that at that time was saturated with hamburger joints.
There was almost no advertising preceding the grand opening of the area’s first Taco Bell on a Wednesday at 10 a.m., but word of mouth spread fast.
“The first few weeks were crazy,” Moroney said. “Just about everybody in Washington must have eaten there three times a day.”
Moroney remembers the “great group of kids” who were the restaurant’s first employees, many of whom are now in their late 40s and early 50s. Current general manager Barb Eversole started at the restaurant as a 16-year-old six months after it opened, and she was only the second manager after Moroney.
Moroney and Waller built on their success five years later with the Union franchise. They now own 14 Taco Bells, one of which is a combined Taco Bell and KFC, across two states. In total they employ almost 400 people.
The business also became a family affair. Moroney met his wife, Jeannine, while working at Taco Bell, and the couple’s three sons all have donned the signature polo, apron and baseball cap. Moroney’s son Patrick was recently named chief operating officer for the company. This has given Moroney more time to step back and work on big-picture goals for the business. Last year he set up a 401(k) retirement plan for management staff, and he enjoys visiting with store employees to get their ideas for how to improve their experience working for the company.
“I always told myself if I ever got a position where I managed people, I would treat them like I would want to be treated,” Moroney said. “I’ve tried to live that philosophy because when I’m gone I want people to say, ‘You know, (John) was a good guy. I really enjoyed working for that company.’ ”