Arbys: A Local Innovation Becomes a National Sensation

ARB13_ARBYS_4C Celebrating 50 Years!

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society is hosting a reunion on July 24, 2014 of Arby’s corporate employees (from 1964-1979) and franchisees to celebrate the restaurant’s 50th Anniversary.  Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. is sponsoring this special gathering as part of the anniversary celebration. The reunion will culminate with a public panel discussion moderated by Bill Lawson, MVHS Executive Director, with businessman and founder of the Arby’s chain LeRoy Raffel, as well as historian Dr. Thomas Welsh, who authored Classic Restaurants of Youngstown, and Dr. Donna DeBlasio, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Applied History at Youngstown State University.  The three panelists will discuss the history of the Arby’s restaurant and its rise in the national fast food industry, how food culture evolved in the Youngstown area through suburbanization, and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Mahoning Valley.  The public is invited to the free panel discussion, on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, 325 West Federal Street, in downtown Youngstown. OHC-logo-1

This public program is supported by The Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.   2012-33-4-Arbys-smallerAbout the Raffle Brothers Youngstown’s identity has been defined by its ethnic food traditions, and by extension it’s restaurant culture.  Forrest and LeRoy Raffle grew up in New Castle, Pennsylvania.  After college the brothers purchased a restaurant equipment company based in Youngstown.  Raffel Brothers, Inc. grew into a leading food service consulting company.  In the early 1960’s, the Raffels decided that their future was with starting their own fast-food chain. Their menu focused on fresh cut roast beef sandwiches served with barbeque or horseradish sauce.  The sandwiches cost 69 cents—more than three times as much as a McDonald’s hamburger, but Forrest and LeRoy were confident that the quality of their sandwiches would attract customers.  The business succeeded and in 1976 the Raffels sold the Arby’s chain to Royal Crown Cola.  Two years later, there were 800 Arby’s restaurants throughout the United States generating sales over $350 Million.  Today Arby’s has more than 3,600 stores located in the United States, Canada, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

JA95-176 Wilkoff Image 002 arbys 50520A-3 boardman
Arby’s Store #1 on 224 in Boardman. The building remains as Wild Birds Unlimited. The Arby’s across the street is the 500th built, but retains the designation as Store #1A.

 

The planning committee is looking for contact information of former Arby’s corporate employees from 1964-1979.   Please contact Rita Wilson at ritaw7500@aol.com, Stephanie at the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau Stephanie@exploretrumbullcounty.com, or Cheryl Lewis at the Tyler History Center clewis@mahoninghistory.org.