Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Beefy King turns 50

Tom Veigle founded Beefy King in 1968. He had discovered the roast beef sandwich on a trip to New York City and immediately opened the restaurant in Orlando. He also owned a chain of pizza restaurants. Tom sold the original Beefy King location to Freeman Smith that same year. He made the company public and expanded the chain. He eventually sold the Beefy King brand and the Smiths restaurant became the only restaurant to remain in the franchise.

Son Roland Smith took over when Freeman Smith retired. The restaurant changed hands several times over the five decades but remained in the family. Now Roland Smith’s daughter and son-in-law, Shannon and James “Woody” Woodrow, run the restaurant.

The restaurant decor clearly  has not changed since the 60s. Tacky clowns hang from the ceiling. They remind me of the paint by number clown painting my parents had hanging in the basement when I was a child in New Jersey. Those clowns had been painted by my older brothers.

I have had lunch at Beefy King several times with the Orange County Regional History Center staff. It makes sense that folks who know about Orlando's history would be attracted to the place. The sandwich was dissected and photographed for a recent exhibit at the History Center about how things are made. No family secrets were reveled in the process. Melissa Procko stopped in for the 50th anniversary celebration and she shot photos for the History Center archives.

On the day of the 50th celebration the line to get roast beef sandwiches went out the door and wrapped around the building. I went inside immediately and got a seat to start sketching while Pam stood in the line that wrapped around the aisles towards the food counter. Channel 6 News showed up with a TV camera and was interviewing the owners.

The menu hasn't changed for 50 years. They do one thing and they do it well. It is a simple and direct path to success. I know I will be back.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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