100 Years of Root Beer

By Nora Heston Tarte

A&W Celebrates 100 Years in Business

The first ever A&W Restaurant opened as a drink stand on Pine St. in Lodi. Since then the restaurant chain has undergone many changes—and a lot of expansion reaching over 1,000 stores globally—much of which has happened right here in Lodi.

“A&W has come a long way since 1919,” said Pete Knight, an A&W franchisee and owner of two locations (one in Lodi and one in St. Helena).

Businessman Roy Allen set up the original stand at 13 Pine St. (the address now belongs to a dog grooming salon) during a parade in 1919. It was so successful that he decided to open A&W on summer evenings and weekends. During prohibition, when it began, the drink stand was extremely profitable, partially because each storefront was made to look like a bar and root beers were always served in frosted mugs, a practice the restaurant still follows today.

The story is that Roy bought the infamous recipe used for A&W root beer from an Arizona pharmacist. The first batch was made during that 1919 parade.

The next A&W location was opened in Sacramento, located in an old wagon Roy would park on a street corner outside of the movie theatre. It also sold peanuts and other snacks, which became a staple across company stands.

Next it expanded to Utah and Texas, places Roy lived, before franchising discounts offered to veterans after WWII and in conjunction with the GI Bill created growth opportunities in every state.

“The reason A&W has been so successful is they have been able to change with the times,” Pete says. The company stood strong throughout prohibition, WWII, and even sugar rationings. As cars became popular, A&W became one of the first restaurants to offer carhops. Later, indoor seating was added to keep sales up over winter. Even women’s rights have a place in A&W history; during WWII women became carhops, a profession previously only offered to men.

A&W will commemorate its 100th birthday with a two-day celebration. During cruise night on June 20 there will be music and giveaways. On June 21, families can celebrate with cake and ice cream, free raffle tickets, giveaways, and more from 5-8 PM at the Lodi location, not far from where it all began.


Mark Your Calendar
Root Beer Float Day – August 6

Free floats (with purchase) 2-8 PM

Join the Celebration:
A&W Restaurant

216 E. Lodi Ave., Lodi
(209) 368-8548

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