Local News

To-Go Order: First Hardee's Franchise Demolished

Posted March 12, 2007

— The memories were thicker than the burgers Monday as the first Hardee's franchise restaurant was torn down to make way for a park.

The restaurant on North Church Street, known within the chain as Building No. 1, opened in Rocky Mount on May 5, 1961, and was famous for 15-cent hamburgers and 10-cent drinks.

Wilbur Hardee opened his first hamburger stand a year earlier in Greenville, and it was so popular that Jim Gardner and Leonard Rawls bought a franchise and opened the Rocky Mount store that became the foundation for a national fast-food chain that now includes 2,400 restaurants.

Hardee's was based in Rocky Mount until 2001, when its parent company CKE Restaurants Inc. consolidated administrative offices in California.

Dozens of former employees and Rocky Mount residents gathered near the building Monday for a hamburger lunch and to share their memories.

"I remember the long lines. They had lines of people all day, it seemed like," said Fred West, who worked the counter at the Rocky Mount Hardee's during its early years.

Monday's demolition was bittersweet, West said.

"It just brings back a lot of memories to me. It's like part of me, almost, is being gone," he said.

Some people wanted the restaurant, which has been vacant for 10 years, to become a museum. Instead, the site will be turned into a veterans memorial and park named for Jack Laughery, a veteran and former chairman of Hardee's.

Laughery died in 2006 following a four-year battle with cancer.

"To have Jack's name forever linked to his fellow veterans, Hardee's and Rocky Mount moving forward captures his spirit perfectly," said Laughery's widow, Helen Laughery.

Local officials said they hope to have the park open by November to celebrate Veterans Day.

"I think it's good that we appreciate our past and acknowledge that, but let it be a base for looking to our future," Rocky Mount Mayor Fred Turnage said.


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  • ImJustSayin Mar 14, 2007

    Hardee's knocked it out of the park when they came up with the "Thickburgers" campaign (not the the ads, which I could take or leave, but the menu). Mickey D's cannot compare. BK jumped on the band wagon at least. Freakin' Freak those hardee's burgers are good!!! Sorry that more Hardee's history down east is going away...but for a Veterans Park, I'm on board 100%

  • dakota_loves_me Mar 13, 2007

    okay mrcritic you smartalic people like the hardees and if you want to debate about it i am here all night. so bring it dont sing it. SAVE HARDEES AND MCDONALDS!!!!! HAHAHAHA

  • mrcritic Mar 13, 2007

    let's only hope they demolish mcdonalds next

  • caliman Mar 13, 2007

    I think they should rip down all the Hardees. In California they have Carls Jr. (owned by the same company even have the star logo) The food at Carls Jr. is a million times better. Get rid of Hardees and give us CARLS JR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • dakota_loves_me Mar 12, 2007

    here is the reasin they are tearing it down! the united states is in debt so far over their fats heads that they dont know what to do and it is the loss of tourism that are the reason that they are tearing down the restraunts . i think that is such a shame they cant keep treasures such as this one. what will they demolish next? McDonalds?

  • mom2threecld Mar 12, 2007

    speedy, not all girls who complain are ugly, you are assuming, and you shouldn't do that.

  • mrcritic Mar 12, 2007

    How are people gonna get fat now?! They should build a Mcdonalds there now. At least then you can die cheap.

  • Ladybug Mar 12, 2007

    Wow! you guys have a hard time sticking to the point. Yes, Hardee's has declined over the years since Carl's took over. And, for the record, the very first Hardee's was in Greenville, NC and was started by my cousin Wilbur Hardee.

  • trunkmonkee1971 Mar 12, 2007

    Hardee's is empty because the price of a decent combo meal is right hefty. If I am going to pay 6 bucks for a big burger I just head on over to Char Grill(I am in Raleigh alot).

  • North Carolina Native Mar 12, 2007

    hey no fair! There are hardees all over the RDU that need tearing down!