A look into Houston's retail past

Whataburger California

Whataburger California

What? It’s A-Burger! Photo Credit: Jeff Magbitang

Howdy folks! I’m sure you’re wondering why you’ve found yourself on a website with a giant Safeway logo on the top. Well to keep it short and sweet, this is a website about retail in Houston, Texas. I’ve recently seen a spike in traffic from people searching along the lines of “Whataburger in California”. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but,

There is currently NO Whataburger presence in California.

This page is about the presence the company had from the mid 1970s until the late 80s. If this interests you read on, if not A-Burger in Oxnard is supposed to be similar. Tell them a guy from Houston sent you maybe they’ll mail me a free burger!

Whataburger is a Texas institution! Beloved by so many, that is was declared our stately equivalent of a national treasure, a Texas Treasure, by the 77th Texas Legislature. It is known by most Texans that Whataburger has a presence in “friendly states” (and Oklahoma). However what most Texans probably don’t know is that Whataburger had a presence in Southern California from the Mid 70’s (~1973) until 1987.

A similar Whataburger in Glendale, AZ

All of the locations seem to have been franchised by Western World Foods Inc, who was for a time the largest Whataburger franchisee. Unlike the company owned locations, the California ones did not sport the distinctive A-Frames. The first locations resembled other Western World Whataburgers in Arizona, and Colorado. Later locations would use an updated corporate design also used in the Texas market to help incorporate drive-thrus.  The company was able to open 8 outlets in California before making their decision to exit the market in 1987. It’s not completely clear why the locations were closed. The fact that the exit came approximately 15 years after the initial entry into California leads me to believe that when franchise rights expired they were not renewed.

Address
Notes
155 South Oxnard Boulevard Oxnard, CAStill resembles a Whataburger in Name, Design and Menu!
400 Thousand Oaks Boulevard Thousand Oaks, CABuilding still exists, now a Japanese Restaurant
2250 East Main Street Ventura, CAConverted to Taco Bell
1579 East Los Angeles Avenue Simi Valley, CAConverted to Jack in the Box
790 North Ventura Road. Port Hueneme, CAConverted to Taco Bell and torn down ~2014
7257 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Canoga Park, CANow an Indian Restaurant, resembles Oxnard locaiton
1650 E Daily Dr, Camarillo, CA 93010Converted to Jack in the Box
1298 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128Converted to a Taco Bell

Reader Comments

  1. The Whataburger on Oxnard Blvd became a Lotaburger for a while, before becoming just A Burger. I wonder if a legal dispute was involved at all. Always wondered why Whataburger suddenly became a big deal in Texas decades after it died in Oxnard.

    1. Lotaburger is a named used by an unrelated chain out of New Mexico, so I could see that being problematic. As for the growth in Texas, that occurred mostly before and right up until the locations were built in California. It was a very well established chain in Texas by the mid 70s. The more recent building booms have more so do to with an increase in population in Texas, and new construction.

    2. I’m 55 years old and a lifelong Texan (except for a brief stint in CA in the 90’s). Whataburger has been a big deal in Texas, at least, as long as I have been alive. 🙂

  2. Whataburger recently got sold to some investment firm based in Chicago.

    I hope they expand and make a return to Southern California, specifically Oxnard.

  3. I was sure that I stopped at a Whataburger in either Oxnard or Ventura in the 70s. I’m glad to know that I memory still works. 🙂 Apparently, not good enough to remember which town but good enough.
    Though I moved to Missouri in the 80s, I still remember those were good burgers. Not as good as In-N-Out Burger but still quite good.

    1. I’m glad I could help trigger some memories! If the photo looks familiar, it was deffinetly the Oxnard location. If not, then it was Ventura as the building styles were very different. Closest Whataburgers to you are Northern Arkansas.

  4. I lived in SoCal for a little over a year in back in ’97-’98. Could not find a single Whataburger location there. This was just before the internet had really become the thing it has now, so I asked around and most people my age said they recalled seeing a location or two back in the 70’s & 80’s but also noted that WB didn’t have a large presence in CA.

  5. I use to go to the Camarillo location a lot. It was always busy back in the late 70’s and into the 80’s

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