Howdy, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re covering a topic that has had social media in a frenzy. The infamous Main Street McDonald’s is coming down. If you’ve never humbled yourself with a visit to the lowliest burger joint this side of the Pecos, well, you may be out of luck! For those unaware, the McDonald’s at 2017 Main Street has quite a reputation. Situated just between the Greyhound Bus Station and the Pierce Elevated section of I-45, this McDonald’s has seen it all. From robberies to homicides, from poor service to “traveling salesmen,” this store has seen just about everything. This situation became so bad that about a year ago, McDonald’s ended up closing off the dining room entirely and adding a makeshift security door with a window to allow for walk-up customers. So how exactly did McDonald’s end up in this spot? Well, it was a bit of a coincidence. This portion of Midtown was initially built out as the “suburbs” of 1900s Houston. By the 1950s, however, the people had moved out, and Demontrond Buick moved in, lasting about ten years before selling the land to a Drive-Inn Hamburger Stand. While the name of this restaurant was indeed McDonald’s, it’s not the one you’re thinking of! Instead, this was a local drive-in chain owned by Houstonian George McDonald Sr.
Mr. McDonald and his son operated a chain of drive-in hamburger restaurants throughout Houston. Early on, they operated under the “Topp’s Self-Serve Drive-In” banner. However, in 1950 before any widespread success of the California-based “Golden Arches,” George Sr. renamed his chain McDonald’s Drive-Inn. The “real” McDonald’s was likely unaware of the Houston chain until their initial courting of Texans, which goes back to the 1950s. Both Austin and Dallas would receive Golden Arches McDonald’s locations long before the chain made it into Houston. McDonald’s would finally arrive in Houston in the 1970s, with the McDonald’s drive-ins reverting to Topp’s Drive-Inn. The chain would not last, however, and in 1980, McDonald’s purchased the remaining drive-ins. They then demolished these locations and built new McDonald’s stores on the lots. At this point, it is unclear what exactly the plan is for this store. Various rumors have floated around, including the possibility of a second “automated McDonald’s.” While McDonald’s or the franchise owner has yet to publically state their intentions, the property has not changed hands, and no building or demolition permits have been filed as of the writing of this article. Brooklyn173 on HAIF spoke with a construction worker who indicated the building would be demolished. While we don’t know what exactly will happen, it seems, at the very least, this store is receiving an extensive and much-needed update.