By Anita Zimmerman
For those of you not familiar with the history of Ricky’s Drive-In, it starts way back in 1962 when Paul Clayton Sr. came home and announced to his family that he had bought a walk-up restaurant on South Church Street. He envisioned his youngest son one day being in the family restaurant business and named it after him – “Ricky’s” Tastee-Freez. Even though Mr. Clayton was a farmer, he was an entrepreneur at heart, already owning a few dry cleaners. The Tastee-Freez started out just selling ice cream, but the menu grew including the family’s famous chili recipe created by Clayton’s wife Edith. The new menu led to needing more space and in 1970 they moved a block down the street.
In 1976, Clayton’s sons, Ricky and Sonny, opened Ricky and Sonny’s on the corner of South Church and Henry, which is now Boot’s and Sonny’s. They once ran a fifty-cent hotdog special that was supposed to last just one week. It was such a big hit they ran the special for a month, then the entire summer, which led to years. Hotdogs are still the biggest seller and are still served with the family’s famous chili, which can be purchased by the gallon. They also had another huge hit, a drive-thru window. They were the first locally–owned restaurant to have one!
In 1980, Ricky went out on his own and opened Ricky’s Drive–In at the corner of Union and East Henry Street. In 1993, he opened Ricky’s West on East Blackstock Road. Although the other locations have been sold, Ricky’s Drive-In West is still owned by the Claytons. The family tradition has continued with Ricky’s s son David who now owns this location with business partner, Jason LaBoon. David was taking orders before he could even reach the counter. He has carried on his father’s belief in having good relationships with the employees, treating them like family. Most have been there since the doors opened. Renea Huggins actually came to Ricky’s West from the Union Street location and has been with the Claytons for 25 years! David also treats his customers like family on top of providing great food and service. His relationships also reach out into the community hosting cruise-ins and fundraisers for local schools, sports and charities in our area.
Paul Clayton Sr.’s vision started with a walk-up restaurant serving only ice cream. It grew to include several restaurants with tables and booths, drive-thrus and even catering services. (By the way, they offer great discounts for large events!) And, almost 50 years later they are continuing to grow. Expansion continues to be a vision of the Claytons, so keep your eyes and ears open for the next Ricky’s location.