The McDonald’s That Used to be on Triskett Road in Cleveland

Header image courtesy of Gary Swilik.

If it was just a patch of grass, I never would have thought anything of it. But what were these random strips of cement adjacent to the sidewalk on Triskett Road? And why were there a few other things that looked like parking bumpers in the grass? Surely there didn’t use to be a business there? It looked like too small of a space for that — and what business would even make sense in an area that is just leading up to an RTA Rapid Station?

Those were the type of thoughts that I had growing up whenever I would pass by the area of grass between W. 139th and the Triskett Rapid Station, just before the bridge if you’re heading East. The mystery wasn’t as much of a mystery to me, though, because my mom had filled me in about how there used to be a McDonald’s location there back in the day. This is the area that I’m referring to, as depicted by Google Maps:

It still seemed like too crammed of a space to have a McDonald’s, but the artifacts of the old parking lot were there. That in itself remains a bit of a mystery to me — if they were able to tear everything else down and landscape the area nicely, then why did those sections of cement remain in tact? I have passed by the area many times in my life, and I’ve come to like it because I feel like I’m diving back in time among some ancient ruins, and a mystery that modern-day residents may not be aware of.

What Do We Know About the Old McDonald’s on Triskett?

I decided to do some digging through old newspaper articles and Facebook groups to try to find out any information that I could about the old McDonald’s on Triskett. I really wanted to find a picture of it so that I could have even more of a visual, but a photo escaped me for many years (more on that later). Here is what I could find through my research, all of which came from Plain Dealer articles:

• According to Gary Swilik on Facebook, the building permit was issued on July 7, 1961, so it either would have opened later that year or in 1962.

• The first reference that I could find in a newspaper was a small advertisement from March 24, 1964. It read, “RESTAURANT work, full or part time. McDonald’s. 13830 Triskett.

• An article from May 10, 1970 was titled, “Ill Wind Foils Robber’s Flight.” The article says at 9:30 am, a 30-year old gunman and his accomplice walked into the store and told manager William Borkenhaten that it was a stickup. The robbers stole $3,563 from the safe, but during the robbery, a meat delivery man could see the workers on the floor (as instructed by the robbers). He notified police. Then, as the robbers were leaving, a wind gust blew off his hat. He went to chase his hat, but his accomplice heard police sirens and decided to take off, leaving his partner to run for it. Police caught him a block away from W. 139th. It’s unclear if the accomplice and money were ever found, but I’d have to imagine that the guy they caught ratted his partner out.

• On June 6, 1971, an article was titled, “10,000 Boy Scouts Help to Clean Area.” The Boy Scouts would go to one of 32 McDonald locations in the morning to receive a plastic litter bag. They would also be treated to free milk and doughnuts for breakfast. When they returned later in the day with a full litter bag, they would receive a free cheeseburger in return. The Triskett location was noted as a busy spot, with manager William E. Post saying that 800 bags were issued in the morning, and more than 400 had been returned already by mid-day. That’s a lot of free cheeseburgers!

• On April 4, 1973, a note appeared that six McDonald’s restaurants in Northern Ohio had been sold by franchise holders to the parent firm, McDonald’s Corp. Leroy C. Vass was identified as having sold two locations: the one at Triskett, and the one at 7015 Detroit Avenue. The location on Detroit Avenue is still standing to this day.

• Several months later, on August 17, 1973, an advertisement was placed in the paper that read, “The Management Team at McDonald’s is proud to announce…” before listing titles and pictures of Mike Farris (Store Manager), Bill Post (First Assistant), Dick Busanus (Second Assistant), Bob Sugrua (Assistant), and Joe Kasick (Assistant). The ad talked about a “new look” at the location, and that they’d be celebrating a grand re-opening with Ronald McDonald appearing for two hours to perform magic tricks and give free gifts to children:

• I had clearly established that a location existed there, but when did it cease operations? As I continued to dig on, I saw a reference in June 1975 that recognized assistant manager Eddie Squaire Jr. for his bachelor’s degree in sociology and a law degree from Howard. In September 1978, McDonald’s took out a big advertisement that was encouraging people to apply at one of 16 West Side locations (Triskett included) or 4 East Side locations.

When Did the McDonald’s Close?

So, when did it close? Swilik said that a friend, who knew a manager at the McDonald’s, believes it closed in 1985 and was demolished soon after. On November 27, 1986, in an announcement in the Cleveland Call and Post, there was a Notice to Bidders that read the following:

In accordance with Resolution No. 1986-209, adopted July 1, 1986, by the Board of Trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, competitive bids are being sought for leasing the premises located at 13830 Triskett Rd, Cleveland, Ohio, 139th and Trisket (sic) Rd, Cleveland, Ohio 44111, formerly known as the McDonald’s Restaurant. This property will be leased in accordance with the general terms and conditions of the Bid Proposal. The contact person is Dennis Covill.

Instructions to bidders and copies of the Bid Package may be obtained from the Greater Regional Transit Authority, Department of Procurement, 615 Superior Ave., N.W., 10th Floor, Cleveland, Ohio 44113.

A Pre-Bid Conference and viewing of the property to be leased will be held on Wednesday, December 3, 1986, from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. on the premises located at 13830 Triskett Road, Cleveland, Ohio, 44111. Sealed bids will be received until 12:00 noon, official time, Thursday, December 11, 1986. The Board of Trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority reserves the right to reject any or all bids or to make an award based on the highest responsible bid.

The same notice appeared in the Plain Dealer on February 25, 1987, with viewings a day later and bids being accepted until March 5, 1987. According to RTA’s history of board resolutions, they received one bid from a company, which they rejected. That was the final reference I could find about the location. Did RTA always own the land, even when McDonald’s operated there? Or was it sold to RTA, who then tried to take more bids before turning it into a green space?

To try to find more answers, I went to the real property search on the Cuyahoga County website. When you look at the map, the area of the old McDonald’s is labeled as parcel 021-07-104. Digging through history, back in 1975, the entire Triskett Station area, including the parking lot and the spot now occupied by Horizon Education Centers, was under parcel 021-08-001 but transferred to RTA via the Mass Transit System Transfer Agreement of 1975.

The part that I’m not clear on is whether that little area where McDonald’s is was part of that transfer. At some point, 021-08-001 was retired and led to 021-07-026. Then, in 2017 — not too long after Horizon purchased their land from RTA for $230,000 — the RTA did a Plat of Partition and Consolidation. Instead of all of their land being under one Parcel, it split it up into five parcels — four of which still belong to RTA, and the fifth of which now belongs to Horizon. Unfortunately, because of this partition happening in 2017, the online auditor records only show transfer history of the parcel dating back to 2017, which was obviously under RTA’s ownership. Online historical records are not available for the retired parcel numbers — so, long story short, I can’t tell at this time whether that land was ever sold to RTA (or the transit system that existed before it) via that method. I did read through other deed records, though, as well as some original Hopkins maps of subplots, that led me to believe that the land was indeed owned by former transit systems and transferred to RTA in 1975.

Photographic Evidence of the McDonald’s and Other Fun Facts

Now then, what about a picture of the actual McDonald’s itself? I searched for awhile in the past through various historical Facebook groups. I remember having seen a post by Swilik that included an advertisement for the location that had appeared in a John Marshall High School (my alma mater!) vs. Holy Name official program from October 11, 1969. He also shared the program image with us below:

But still, I was always hoping to see a picture of the actual McDonald’s in that spot. I searched for awhile, to no avail. Then, the other day, I was surfing through another Facebook group and saw someone share a picture of the Triskett Rapid Station from 1980. In the far distance, I said to myself, “I’ll be damned,” as a grin came across my face. Even though it’s a tiny glimpse of it, there is the McDonald’s in all its glory.

I retrieved the photo from here, which lists Steve Zabel as the photographer, and Joe Testagrose as having collected it. It lists June 17, 1980 as the date of the photo.

For those who knew the location, the picture doesn’t quite show it in all its glory. The building originally had the classic golden arches (as illustrated in the program earlier) and was allegedly a walk-up only restaurant (i.e. no dining inside), which makes sense given how it fit on that small strip of land. In my notes earlier, I said how the location was sold and re-opened in 1973, which included a re-model that made it look like all the other McDonald’s at the time, and also included indoor dining.

Other fun facts and memories that I gathered from various Facebook comments:

• Jim Dudas says he used to work there and talked about the fry-making process: “The reason the fries were so good was we had to rinse them three times to remove as much starch as possible. Then we would fry them in beef tallow. And that’s what made them taste so good and so much better than today’s.” Mike Hazelwood noted that they hand-washed and pressed every french fry from fresh potatoes, and how they used to have a window on the outside where you could watch them wash and slice.

• Many customers would get their morning breakfast there before continuing on to the Triskett Rapid Station to go to work. Others would go there before or after school. Bill Stockdale says that the store was on RTA property, and if RTA employees showed their ID, they would get a free drink.

• Back then, a hamburger was $0.15, fries were $0.12, and a pop was $0.10.

• It seems generally agreed upon that McDonald’s wanted or needed to have a drive-thru, but RTA would not let them expand, or were worried about the extra traffic it would cause to interfere with bus operations. That is believed to be one of the reasons it eventually closed, although others speculate that the new location near W. 150th and Lorain Avenue contributed to its demise too.

Walking By the Area Present Day

Back in May 2023, I did a walking tour video around West 150th and Lorain Avenue, Warren Village, and parts of Triskett Road, which included me showing the old McDonald’s location at the 41:00 mark. Check it out below, and I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

References:

  • (1964, March 24). Plain Dealer , p. 36.
  • (1970, May 10). Plain Dealer , p. 16.
  • (1971, June 6). Plain Dealer , p. 8.
  • (1973, April 4). Plain Dealer , p. 24.
  • (1973, August 17). Plain Dealer , p. 151.
  • (1975, June 28). Plain Dealer , p. 26.
  • (1978, September 17). Plain Dealer , p. 123.
  • (1986, November 27). Cleveland Call and Post, p. 14B.
  • (1987, February 25). Plain Dealer , p. 55.

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