owner and son of the founder. "Like everything else, things don't
Don's story begins during World War II, when Don Draper served
Lockheed Corp. workers food from a lunch stand near the facility. He
later built the restaurant as a drive-in in 1947 at its permanent
address, 507 S. Glenoaks Blvd. It was turned into a full-service
restaurant in 1963.
With four generations of Drapers working at Don's through its 55
years, it became a family institution and spawned a restaurant of the
same name in Victorville and a sports bar in Apple Valley named
Although the two other restaurants are still family-owned and
operated, Mike and Cindy Chei, the current owners of the original
Don's, decided to make the change. They declined to comment.
"There are going to be a lot of people who will miss Don's," said
Lillie Couch, a waitress who has worked at the restaurant for 50
years. "It's a landmark place with people coming here every day, and
they will miss it."
Joe Palumbo, a Don's manager, said the Cheis have several reasons
for closing it and reopening as a specialty restaurant. One is the
rising cost of overhead, and another is the increase in competition
from other local restaurants. And although 60% of its business is
from regulars, the customer base is aging.
"All of our clientele, which is mainly older people, are in love
with our restaurant," Palumbo said. "But their children don't come."
Draper said one of Don's last successful years was in 1991.
Shortly after, Lockheed left town, taking with it an extraordinary
amount of regular customers. Business went downhill.
As a sign of appreciation for customer loyalty throughout the
years, Don's is hosting a public party from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday to
celebrate its closing and the 50-year anniversary of Couch's