a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Winkys survives in Beaver?

BEAVER, Pa. – We had driven several times into Beaver, Pa., past a gasoline station that half-resembles a fast-food restaurant that rivaled McDonald's in the 1960s and 1970s.

The next time we are here, I want to stop and take a photograph of the odd little business along State Street, I kept telling a friend, who chauffeurs us around this county seat north of Pittsburgh.

"It looks link a Winkys," I said last December, before we attended the crowded Christmas light-up festivities in this downtown, driving past the place yet another time.

Finally, we stop today, and I walk up to the attendant and ask, "Did this used to be a Winkys?"

"I don't know," answered the guy, who is too young to have remembered the kooky burger chain before looking at me oddly for snapping the above photo.

There used to be one of these restaurants in Charleroi, Pa., near our home in the Monongahela River Valley, and it became hugely popular because hamburgers sold there for 15 cents apiece. One of my uncles with six kids loved the place because he could feed his entire family there for under two bucks. The building since has been demolished.

Back at the house today, we search Google images for Winkys and, sure enough, this gas station fits the description. But, the chain's signature center roof peak is missing from this building.

This mystery is unsolved. 

Jim McKevitt, manager of the former Charleroi Winkys on Route 88, far left, is shown inside the restaurant chain that once rivaled McDonald's. (Doris Lancaster photo)


Gina said...

I remember going to the Charleroi Winky's as a child. Didn't they have a Big Mac knockoff called the Big Wink?

Scott Beveridge said...

Yes. There is a photo on Facebook showing the inside of the Charleroi Winkys, and the Big Wink sold for 75 cents about the time the place closed. Maybe I can get permission to post that pic here.

GaryC. said...

A very good friend and I used to stop at the Rt. 88 Winkys for Big Winks on our way home from slot car racing. My friend recently passed away. We both always remembered how we enjoyed munching those Big Winks as we watched the barges go up and down the river. That was probably in 1966 to 1967.

Debra Jane Seltzer (aka agilitynut) said...

This is actually a Minute Man gas station (never a Winky's - sorry to disappoint). Minute Man stations seem to have been confined to western NY, PA and OH. More of them here:

Anonymous said...

Your all wrong, the building was built as a Falcon Gasoline Station, that was their design, not Winkys. FYI

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories.

Though I lived more towards central Pa., our Winky's was built later (probably 1973 +/- a year) and it was model similar to McDonald's (then) new brick-cased units as they were abandoning the mostly glass building design.

I did work at Winky's in 1975 and '76. Got myself a little for the effort, too. I sure loved everything about the place. And even though were (intentionally built) beside McDonald's, we were fairly busy. There was no doubt the Big Wink was our biggest seller.

Our demise, as I recall it (other than MD's superior growth) was our once-competitive french fries went to hell when we first started using the same fry vats for chicken, fish and later shrimp baskets (which the Manager was selling on his own - unauthorized, of course, and later fired for). Well, tainted grease, as we know, just wrecks the whole fry experience. Our walk-in business suffered to point of store closure.

As for Jim Delligatti, the inventor of the infamous Big Mac, google sourcing leaves one with a chicken/egg scenario.

Wiki makes no sourcing to his ties with Winky's but does attribute him as one of Ray Kroc's earliest franchisee owners. However, other Googlings scantly cover Jim's tie to Winky's. Winky's was created in 1962 and the official birth of the franchised Big Mac launched in 1967. So somewhere within that 5-year span, the official story sticks with Jim inventing the flagship sandwich in his kitchen. It's safe to assume Jim bought his MD's stores before 1967 as he had several and was obviously feeling comfortable enough to experiment with Ray Kroc's success formula.

Without direct family dialogue, I guess we'll never conclusively know how the Big Wink?Big Mac switcheroo went down.

And by the way, our old Winky's building is still standing. It's had a rather casual rotation of tenants over the last four decades from a Dunkin' Donuts to an existing Tanning Salon.

Debra Jane Seltzer (aka agilitynut) said...

Falcon and Minute Man gas stations used the exact same building design.

Debra Jane Seltzer (aka agilitynut) said...

Falcon and Minute Man gas stations used the identical building design (different names for different territories). This building was definitely built for one of those brands.


I used to go there all the time after my guitar lessons in Charleroi

Anonymous said...

FYI Gina the Big Mac is the knock-off. Mcdonalds copied the Big Wink

Marie A. Dynamite said...

Yep, McDonald's ripped off Winky's. Winky's was owned by a group of folks calling themselves "Jiffy Foods.

Mayflylady said...

There is still a winkys building and old sign right by Thornburg bridge in Allegheny County on Rt 60. I remember sneaking out there as a teenager. I think it was a vet clinic after winkys closed. Not sure what it is now. I think about that delicious special sauce on the Big Wink every time I go home to Thornburg and drive by it.