On Saturday, the closing of Logan’s A&W signaled the end of an era of burgers and frosty mugs of root beer served up on the corner of 7th North and Main dating back to 1954.
Franchise owner Aaron Dean said the decision to close the historic location did not come easy, but it has been something on his mind for the better part of five years.
“I love it. We have been franchise holders between my father and I for 41 years. For myself, it will be 15 years next month. It isn’t like this is a few-year deal and we are getting out,” Dean said. “We love this and have a long positive history with A&W.”
Previously owned by his mother, Shi Dean, the location was purchased by the family a few months after moving from Dillon, Montana, to Logan after having an A&W franchise in that railroading town for eight years.
Shi and Robert Dean purchased the iconic cupola-topped Main Street location in June 1985 and ran it until Aaron took over a few years ago following his mother’s death in 2009.
“My mom walked in the door and asked who owned the place, and then they proceed to buy it. This was 1985 and that was a long time ago,” Dean said.
Aaron owned the Smithfield A&W from March 2003 to January 2011. Shortly after opening the location, an early-morning fire in 2004 gutted the building that was previously another fast food establishment.
While A&W had its customary staples, the Logan location created the “Big Blue Special” that was only found at the corner of 7th and Main until Aaron introduced it at the Smithfield location.
“That is an iconic thing that was created right here. The only reason it is in Smithfield is because I was the franchisee there,” Dean said. “It was pre-us, and the only story I know was when we came in June of ‘85, they said sometime in the late ‘70s the owner wanted to make a big ole Big Blue Special after the mascot.”
Named after the Utah State University mascot, Dean wasn’t sure if the iconic double-patty creation would have a home in the new establishment but was hopeful it wasn’t going to die.
Between bites of his Papa Special on Saturday, customer Zach Atkinson was shocked to learn of the location’s demise.
“There is nothing like getting a frosty mug of root beer. It is pretty nostalgic,” Atkinson said.
The Logan resident said he frequented the location a few times a month and was disappointed learning that during his mid-day Saturday stop they were sold out of cheese curds, his favorite A&W fried food.
As a steady stream of customers navigated the drive-up window and ordered at the counter, employee Paige Hulse remarked the closing of the burger joint was the end of an era in Logan as it had been around since her grandfather was a kid.
“There are a lot of memories here. The people I work with are like family, and we all get along so well,” Hulse said. “I have been here since May 2017 and have enjoyed it and am sad to see it go.”
Concerned for his nearly 20 employees, Dean told them a few weeks ago that the decision to close “sucked and he hated it,” but he reassured the mostly high school and college student workers that when he opens his new franchise they could have a job.
“It was hard for me to let them all know. I know many of them will need to find something different, but when we are a month or so out I will call them and welcome them back if they can. I want that, and I know most will come back,” Dean said.
Looking toward the future, Dean is optimistic there will be a new eatery on the corner by August. While he wouldn’t divulge what that will be, Dean has been in discussions with three different establishments he may become a franchisee with that do not have locations in Utah.
“The bottom line is that this building is old. It is really old. This was at one time a gas station,” Dean said. “It may not make sense to a lot of people, but my logic is that I start fresh with a different brand. I want to see what I can do.”
In the coming months, the building will be torn down, changing the landscape of Main Street, but Dean feels the change has been a long-time coming and is hopeful the faithful customers will return when the corner reopens.
“It will be sad to see it go. I look at this as a positive change. There will be a part of me always that will miss making that root beer fresh and serving those frosty mugs,” he said.