A couple of weeks ago, Garden Grove Police Chief Todd Elgin paid a visit to the completely refurbished McDonald’s on Valley View Street near Chapman Avenue —- one of five in the city owned by the storied Widdicombe family, pioneering McDonald’s owners in O.C.
Elgin almost was moved to tears.
Patti Widdicombe, who with her daughter, Sam, 22, is the remaining member of the family that opened the first McDonald’s in Orange County, in March 1957 in Garden Grove, decided to include two murals in the revamped McDonald’s, which opened in June 1974.
One of the murals inside the remodeled eatery, which held its grand reopening Sunday, is of Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor, Medal of Honor recipient and namesake of the city library.
The other mural — the one that got Elgin choked up — is of the memorial outside GGPD headquarters that pays homage to the agency’s five fallen officers: Sgt. Myron Trapp, Officer Andy Reese, Officer Donald Reed, Officer Michael Rainford and Master Officer Howard Dallies Jr.
Patti Widdicombe said she decided to theme the inside of the McDonald’s “Heroes” and therefore included the mural of the PD memorial.
Widdicombe also said the mural underscores her family’s longtime support of the GGPD.
Speaking at the grand reopening Sunday, Aug. 7, Elgin thanked Widdicombe for her family’s support — and for the mural.
“I was very moved (to see it),” Elgin said, “especially at a time when the profession of law enforcement is getting crushed in the media. And that’s a false narrative.”
With city officials, representatives of local politicians and members of several community groups looking on, Elgin recalled writing reports as a patrol officer inside a substation that used to be adjacent to a Widdicombe-owned McDonald’s at Harbor Boulevard and Lampson Avenue.
Widdicombe leased the substation to the GGPD for $1 a year.
“(This mural) was done at a time when it’s not popular (to show support of law enforcement), but when it’s needed most,” Elgin told the crowd.
Sunday’s grand-reopening, held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., included a flag-raising ceremony by the Boy Scouts, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, free Chicken McNuggets and cookies, face-painting, a photo booth, a fire truck and police patrol car, local musicians, and a visit by Ronald McDonald.
There also was a drawing for prizes, and the first 200 dine-in customers Sunday received six months of free once-a-week Big Mac’s.
Representatives of the Orange County Ronald McDonald House had an information booth during the grand opening and check presentations were made to four local groups: Garden Grove Boy Scout Pack 75, Garden Grove Police Explorers, Orange County Ronald McDonald House and HOPE, the youth mentoring and music program in Garden Grove.
The refurbished McDonald’s on Valley View, which employs 55, has all the latest bells-and-whistles, including solar lighting and digital menu boards.
In about three weeks, the eatery — No. 2817 of the chain, which now has 36,258 restaurants in 119 countries — will be the first McDonald’s in the U.S. with digital menu boards at its two drive-through lanes. And in a couple of years, officials said, the store will have digital order kiosks inside that customers can tap to place orders.
The interior of the gussied-up McDonald’s has a contemporary design of soft-muted colors, a wood ceiling and wood tiles on the floor, and lime-green tiles behind the three order-taking stations.
Widdicombe said her family has supported the GGPD over the years in many ways, including the purchase of a K9 officer as well as flashlights that doubled as breath analyzers for motorists suspected of driving drunk.
Widdicombe, the last surviving child of O.C. McDonald’s pioneers Gene and Roland Widdicombe, who in 1957 opened the first McDonald’s at 12521 Harbor Blvd., ticked off some statistics related to the refurbished Valley View store.
Since opening in 1974, it has served more than 16 million customers and employed more than 3,700. In addition, it has cranked out more than 6 million pounds of French fries.
Garden Grove City Manager Scott Stiles called the Widdicombe family “outstanding community partners.”
Guests and customers at Sunday’s grand reopening gave the remodeling a big thumbs up.
Widdicombe noted it’s rare for one family to own and operate all the McDonald’s in a single city.
“That’s one of the reasons our family is so community focused,” she said.