Located on the Moline/East Moline border, this Sandy's was on U.S. Highway 92 which at the time was an incredibly busy highway. Not only did United States traffic flow past this drive-in but a number of other factors made it extremely busy as well. One of these factors was the International Harvester Complex which was less than one mile away. First, second and third shift workers were constantly coming and going to work and also taking breaks and finding Sandy's to be the place for great food. Second, being situated between two cities, this location was a popular hang out for Moline High School and East Moline High School (U.T.H.S.) students. Third, U.S. Highway 92 in East Moline became a one-way heading east on 17th Avenue (the original Highway 92) and became a one-way heading west on 16th Avenue. This meant that the two roads connected together at exactly the Sandy's location!
Highway 92 had an incredible two mile strip full of thriving businesses including an original Sandy's, A&W as well as two Dairy Queens. This location still exist today as a thriving Hardees, as of 2004, some 44 years after it was originally built! The building started out as the classic Sandy's walk up, changed into a walk-in, became a sit down style restaurant as we know today, then switched to Hardees still within the Sandy's building. Later it was remodeled into Hardees as the concept building which Hardees and Sandy's shared for a brief time period around 1974 and finally was completely torn down and rebuilt on the same lot (as Hardees). One final great feature of the building was a window which was cut out on the left hand partition wall above the french frier. Children could walk up a step and peek at the Sandy's employees as they prepared the burgers, fries, coca cola and shakes for their families.
Mr. Vlahos was an innovator as well as a city leader. His expert marketing is legendary. On many occasions the city would ask him to provide traffic control because his promotions were blocking the flow of traffic on the highway! One such occasion was on Good Friday in which he sold 7,000 fish sandwiches, 3,500 grilled cheese sandwiches, 5,000 cheeseburgers and this did not even include the french fries!
The Moline location was also the birthplace of the fast food fish sandwich. Ted Vlahos, the owner of this incredible location could not understand why he would not do good business on Fridays while he would do tremendous business on all other days. The Peoria locations which were his friendly rivals were not having this problem. His wife suggested that since the location was in a heavy Roman Catholic area that perhaps they were not coming since they would not eat meat on Fridays. Mr. Vlahos put on his Sandy's uniform and went door to door. As the housewife would open the door, the distinctive odor of fish cooking would arise. Ted realized that he needed an alternate product on the menu. He tried grilled cheese sandwiches which sold well but he knew that fish was the answer. He received permission from Sandy's to try fish and that he was to present to them ten different fish for corporate to choose from. The winner was a high quality quarter pound haddok which he sold for 29¢. Soon, all Sandy' s locations were adding fish to their menus. During this time, McDonalds would visit Sandy's as they were a direct competitor. Perhaps this is where McDonalds picked up the idea in one of their locations and put it on their nationwide menu in 1963.
Sandy's were innovators when it came to promotions and Mr. Vlahos was the leader. One goal was to get children into Sandy's as the children were the future customers. The local dairy which supplied the Moline location had female models working for them for their promotions. Mr. Vlahos hired these models for his promotions. One of the greatest ones was the arrival of the Easter bunny. One of the models would be with the Easter bunny and give the children a chocolate egg on which the Easter bunny would sign the child's name on the egg in frosting! Mr. Vlahos expanded this promotion in the same way with May baskets as well as Christmas stockings.
Sandy's also had a daily "Coke hour". This promotion was from between 2pm and 4pm. The promotion included a larger Coke at the smaller price. This way, during the slower hours of 2pm to 4pm, the kids getting out of high school would go directly to Sandy's for their pop before going home.
For any true fan of Sandy's there are two things that stand out. The first is the building itself. The classic fins which angle out from the building are classic late 1950's/1960's style. Simply unforgetable. The architect for Sandy's was the sole architect from the beginning in 1958 thru the Hardees merger and perhaps beyond. This is a picture of the Moline location which is a perfect Sandy's building to which all others must be compared. Later concept Sandy's version just did not have the icon status of this building. This building is an incredible piece of Americana at its finest.
The Second thing which stands out for fans of Sandy's is the incredible sign out front. True to its era, large and flashy was in. Consider other signage from the same time period, from Holiday Inn to Howard Johnsons, McDonalds to Arbys, drive in theaters to bowling alleys, the signs of this period are built to get your attention. Get ones attention is exactly what the Sandy's classic icon sign did. The sign itself was huge. At the top was the incredible Sandy's Scottish dancing girl. The section of the sign with the Sandy's girl would spin slowly round and round. At the same time, the cursive trademark Sandy's word was filled with clear blinker lights. These lights would blink/scroll from left to right, becoming solid "Sandy's" and blinking "Sandy's" on and off until finally repeating the process. Incredibly, the huge 15¢ Hamburgers portion of the sign played third place behind these two stand out features. The hamburgers 15¢ sign was also trimed around in neon in a triangle fashion.
The sign at night was outstanding. With the neon, the flashing lights, the twirling Sandy's girl and the promise of a great meal at a great price with great service, all on one of the busiest highways, Sandy's was a fantastic place to hang out and eat for all ages.
John Powell grew up near Sandy's in Moline and remembers what an incredible place it was.
Sandy's restaurant, Man what a blast from the past! I grew up 2 block's from this very restaurant. Anyone from this neck of the wood's would really freakout that someone has a site dedicated to a small Midwestern hamberger chain like Sandy's.
The highway that is in front of what was then Sandy's (which is nothing more than a 4 lane street now) was pretty busy. Someone in my family found me riding my tricycle on this highway when I was 2 years old! It is a favorite family story and everybody thinks it's soo funny! HA HA :-)
It was a rip rockin joint and made a long lasting impression on me even after 37 years!