Herfy’s Hamburgers

Herfy’s was a Hamburger chain founded in Everett, Washington (a suburb of Seattle). Leon Gardner opened the first location in 1962 as a drive-in hamburger stand named Beefy’s. A group of franchisees was brought on board in 1963 to run the original restaurant, with Gardner assign franchise rights throughout the West Coast. One of the first changes made was to modify the name from Beefy’s to Herfy’s. A large steer head with disapproving eyes and the original script were kept from the original logo. The new franchisees would find quick success in modeling their restaurant after McDonald’s, which had arrived in Seattle the year prior. They sold a simple fare of Hamburgers, Fish Sandwiches, Crinkle Fries, Soda, and Ice Cream, all for super cheap. Soon after, new locations began to pop up, with the new owners holding franchise rights to the stores in Seattle and Alaska. The company seemed poised to grow and by the late 60s was above 10 locations, including a mix of company-owned and franchise locations, including the Oregon and Northern California restaurants. In 1971, the future of Herfy’s would change drastically, with Campell’s Soup Company making the decision to diversify by acquiring Herfy’s Corp. At the time, Herfy’s consisted of 9 company-owned locations and five franchised. Campbell’s had an intent to expand to 29 locations and possibly more if their new business proved successful. During their expansion, Campbell’s would begin pumping cash into the existing corporate structure rather than bringing in their own staff. The new locations would be mostly placed throughout the Pacific Northwest, making it as far down the coast as San Jose, California. However, under the direction of Campbell’s plans were steered towards Houston. The new stores would begin construction in 1972, and by the end of the year, three locations were in operation. Campbell’s made ambitious plans to open 20-25 restaurants in Houston, and with their fourth store opening within the next week, the Houston stores were likely meant to make up the majority of Herfy’s new expansion.


A drawing of a typical Herfy’s location. Source: Ad in Rice Thresher Vol. 60, No. 30, Ed. 1 1973

Herfy’s initial push to build stores ran unabated through 1973 however, by the end of the year, with only 11 of the 25 planned locations complete, the stores would suddenly stop being built, with little indication as to what was going on behind the scenes, it seems that Herfy’s had an extremely hard time recruiting employees. Whether it was naivety toward the perils of dealing with a “big city” or Herfy’s being targeted by criminals, the stores experienced a large amount of pushback from Houstonians. The restaurants didn’t seem to be robbed more often than other fast food outlets, but it seems that the managers and other employees were often killed by burglars at Herfy’s. Ads became desperate, searching for employees, going so far as to offer super short shifts. Despite these issues internally, on the surface, Herfy’s was trying its best to be seen as a community-involved and somewhat charitable company. However, Herfy’s would never really find success in the Houston area despite these best interests. While lots of different factors come into play, Mc Donald’s and Burger King were both heavily targeting Houston with their own expansions during this time. Between the sea of recognizable national chains and local places that had been around for years, Herfy’s just seemed to be sort of lost in the mix. By the end of 1975, plans were quietly being made to transfer ownership of all Houston Herfy’s to Whataburger. Many of the Herfy themes would be easy to transition over, such as a drive-thru in place of a drive-in or Herfy’s gratuitous use of Orange in their decor. However, Whataburger would find themselves mostly covering up the old Herfy’s Mansard Roofs, with one notable exception. These stores would not be Houston’s first Whataburger locations, but the square squat buildings gave the Whataburgers in this part of Houston a distinct look, lacking their signature A-Frames.

Outside of Houston, Herfy’s expansion had essentially stopped almost as soon as they started. In 1979, a Seattle-based property development company announced its intent to buy Herfy’s from Campbell’s. The developers had no plans to “interfere with operations”  but rather to lease back the restaurant sites to the franchisees. Herfy’s Corp would continue large-scale operations for less than a year under their new ownership, a move that many analysts had predicted as their new owner was simply a property developer. In April of 1980, Herfy’s Corporate office made the sad announcement that they would close 31 of their 43 remaining corporate-owned locations. Herfy’s had taken a page out of the Texas book, and was attempting to sell their units to fast food chains looking to expand in the Northwest. Some locations would remain open, being leased to franchise operators. Of the remaining locations, only 12 would be corporately owned. Over the next couple of years, with such a small base of stores, corporate influence continued to diminish, and remaining franchisees began to jump ship for more stable chains. Around this time, “broken chain imitators” also began to pop up, sometimes reusing old Herfy’s buildings. These new restaurants would have similar menus and similar names, sometimes only differing by a letter or two (Harfy’s, Harry’s, etc…). It seems that most central services like advertising were discontinued at this point. However, Herfy’s Corp. stuck around until around 1986, when their final pinnings came apart. By this point, only a handful of locations remained and would continue to operate without any coordination between stores. During the 90s, the Herfy’s name would begin to reappear on new stores which bore little resemblance to the original chain. Often offering Chinese food in addition to burgers, it seems that these new clones were unauthorized and simply banking on the name for popularity. The original location, still under one of the franchisees from 1963, would finally shut its doors in 2006. As of 2022, many independent Burger stands in the Seattle area continue to use the Herfy’s name, and sometimes even the logo, but otherwise, however these new locations have no connection to the old stores.

Location List

Address
Notes
3712 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77098Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-Present
6134 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77057Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-1996, Demolished for shopping center expansion
6705 Fondren Rd Houston, TX 77036Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-2019, Relocated, Project Pollo Location as of 2022
8103 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-1989, Relocated, Demolished
6235 Bissonnet St Houston, TX 77081Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-2007, Demolished for strip center
2429 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77080Herfy's: 1972-1975 Whataburger: 1975-Present
3639 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77027Herfy's: 1973-1975 Whataburger: 1975-Present
4616 Old Spanish Trail Houston, TX 77021Herfy's: 1973-1975 Whataburger: 1975-2014 Relocated, Original structure still stands
444 W Little York Rd, Houston, TX 77076Herfy's: 1973-1975 Whataburger: 1975-Present
#612 Memorial City Mall, Houston, TX 77024Herfy's: 1973-1975 Whataburger: 1975-1999
212 W Southmore Ave, Pasadena, TX 77502Herfy's: 1973-1975 Whataburger: 1975-1996, Demolished for a Self-Car Wash, now a Popeye's as of 2022

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