On November 15, 2019, Wendy’s celebrated its Founder’s Day that coincides with the opening of the first Wendy’s location at 257 East Broad St. in Columbus, Ohio. This year marks an important milestone for the company: It is the 50th anniversary of that original opening.
Very few people can claim to have been at the ribbon-cutting for that first store, but two people that can are Wasserstrom CEO, Rodney Wasserstrom and Dave Thomas’ daughter, Wendy Thomas, who is the namesake and inspiration for the Wendy’s brand.
As part of the 50th-anniversary festivities, Rodney and Wendy participated in a panel discussion about those early days.
A Panel Discussion with Rodney Wasserstrom & Wendy Thomas
Our Oldest Partnership
Rodney’s history with Wendy’s extends back even before the brand existed. Rodney first met Dave Thomas when Dave was working for Kentucky Fried Chicken and managing franchises in Columbus. But Dave wasn’t satisfied working for someone else and soon hit on an idea to open a new restaurant based around hamburgers. Even when the concept was just in its infancy, Rodney helped to evaluate what Dave Thomas wanted to accomplish. He even went so far as ferrying his very pregnant wife to visit a restaurant in another city to check out a precursor to what would eventually become the Wendy’s chain that we all know and love today.
We are very fortunate to have this video record of Rodney recounting many of the iconic stories all about the early days of the Wendy’s/Wasserstrom relationship. From pounding out downspouts that would serve as the signature blue and white striping on the buildings to the unbelievable but totally true story of the first Wendy’s spatulas that were actually made from cement trowels…these stories helped to shape both brands.
Both Rodney and Wendy were on hand for the 50th Anniversary event as well. Part of the celebration was a “Dress Like Dave” event and Rodney got into the spirit with a short-sleeve white dress shirt and red tie that was the de facto image of Dave Thomas throughout the years. We all miss Dave and what he stood for. And we are grateful that Rodney and Wendy could share such wonderful stories about such an incredible man.
Congratulations on achieving such an amazing milestone. Here’s to the next 50 years of Wendy’s!