History Happens Here: Sonic Drive-In then, vacant now

(Photo by Robert Kropp, Independent Newspapers)

(Photo by Arianna Grainey, Independent Newspapers)

History oftentimes is forgotten as time passes. This weekly series features old photographs from the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent’s archives, held up in the exact place that they were originally taken, in the style of Dear Photograph.

This week’s image was taken by then Independent staffer Robert Kropp. The image appeared on page B-6 of the Oct. 15-21, 1986, edition.

The original caption reads: RECENT BUY. Brothers Frank and Ron Choate recently purchased the Sonic Drive-In, 700 W. Apache Trail. The purchase turned the restaurant into a full-fledged franchise.

According to the article accompanying the photograph, the brothers had been employees of Sonic for a combined 14 years.

According to the article, the store employed 10 people in 1986.

The restaurant is no longer at 700 W. Apache Trail. Sonic is now across the street, 875 W. Apache Trail.

Sheaya Hamblin, general manager of the Sonic, said she has 18 employees now.

According to the Pinal County assessor’s website, the facility at 700 W. Apache Trail was built in 1978 and most recently sold in 2002.

The property was purchased by Ruiz Reynaldo Gonzalez for $350,000. According to the assessor’s website, the property’s full cash value is $173,756. The total square footage of the building on the property is 1,184 feet.

“In the early 2000s Sonic started construction across the street,” Rudy Esquivias, senior planner with the city of Apache Junction, said. “It (the old building) sat vacant for a few years and then a restaurant named Taco Fiesta moved in.”

It closed sometime during the Great Recession, Mr. Esquivas said.

“There’s a new owner. He has been talking to us about trying to open it up as a new Mexican restaurant,” Mr. Esquivas said. “But no plans have been submitted. We hope to see it occupied soon.”

Mr. Esquivas said the city of Apache Junction likes to see vacant buildings re-purposed.

Sonic hosts Sonic School Nights where a portion of all sales from 5 p.m. to close go back to the schools to promote their programs.

“We are always willing to help out,” Ms. Hamblin said. “We’re going to be supporting for the drama club for the AJ High School. I have been trying to get involved with all the high schools,” she said.

“I’m hoping to get them set up on some Sonic School Nights,” Ms. Hamblin said. “They are doing a redo of ‘Elf’ for their Christmas play so they are just trying to get some extra funding.”

Paul Lanphear, theater director at Apache Junction High School, expressed interest in the partnership.

“I think it’s great when a local business is willing to help our school groups with fundraising,” he said in an e-mail. “It’s a good way for both the restaurant and the school to gain positive exposure.”

Sonic at a corporate level hosts Limeades for Learning, Ms. Hamblin said.

Limeades for Learning is a program where teachers submit their projects and customers vote on who deserves to win the project. For more information on Limeades for Learning, visit, https://www.limeadesforlearning.com.

Want to help with this project? If you have any old photographs that would be interesting to recreate in this way, e-mail them to agrainey@newszap.com for consideration. Include any information that you have about the photo subject and content. Are you on Instagram? Follow this project on Instagram @history_happens_here_az.

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