Dead, Glen William Bell, Jr. on January 16, 2010 at the age of 86 from a heart attack, was the founder of the Taco Bell chain of restaurants.
Born in Lynwood, California on September 3, 1923, Glen Bell attended and graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1941. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.
Bell left the military in 1946 and started his first hot dog stand, called Bell’s Drive-In, in San Bernardino in 1948.
In 1952, he sold the hot dog stand and built a second stand that sold hot dogs and hamburgers.
Shortly thereafter, he started selling tacos at a taco stand named Taco-Tia at the price of 19 cents each from a side window.
Bell’s tacos sold so well that he and a partner opened three Taco Tias in the San Bernardino area. Wanting to grow, Bell sold the restaurants, forming a new partnership that opened four El Tacos. But Bell’s true desire was to go solo, so he sold the El Tacos to his partners and opened the first Taco Bell in 1962, eventually franchising in 1964.
Since then, Taco Bell has grown to become the nation’s leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain.
Bell never forgot the first taco buyer at Bell’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs in San Bernardino, California, one of three stands he owned at the time.
He was dressed in a suit and as he bit into the taco the juice ran down his sleeve and dripped on his tie,” Mr. Bell recalled in “Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story,” (Bookworld Services, 1999), a biography by Debra Lee Baldwin.
“I thought, ‘Uh-oh, we’ve lost this one.’ But he came back, amazingly enough, and said, ‘That was good. Gimme another.’ ” After four El Tacos, Mr. Bell decided he no longer wanted to answer to any partners.
He sold out again. Then, in 1962, with a $4,000 investment, he opened the first Taco Bell, in Downey, Calif.
Over the next two years, he started eight more Taco Bells, each with a grand opening featuring live salsa music, searchlights and free sombreros.
The first of its franchises opened in Torrance, Calif., in 1965.
PepsiCo greatly expanded the chain after purchasing it in 1978 for about $125 million, and then spun it off to Tricon Global Restaurants in 1997. Tricon changed its name to Yum Brands in 2002.
Back in San Bernardino after the war, Mr. Bell bought a surplus Army truck and began hauling adobe bricks at 5 cents each. A miniature golf course that he leased failed to make a profit.
Then, he opened a hamburger stand in a Hispanic neighborhood.
In 1955, he married a teacher named Martha “Marty” Ahl and struck out on his own again in Pasadena.
However, Bell misjudged the clientele and his Taco Tia on Colorado Boulevard failed to show a profit.
He was survived by his wife Martha, two sons, a daughter, four grandchildren, and three sisters.