PANAMA CITY – When McDonald’s on State 77 across from the Panama City Mall closed for good on Sunday after selling its last cheeseburger, it went for a $ 1 entree (plus tax). In June 1977, when it opened 44 years ago, the same item sold for around 33 cents.
What Tracy and Tim Johnstone want residents to know is that when the grand opening takes place on May 27 at the new location just up the street in Bay City Point, the biggest change won’t be in pricing, it will be in restaurants and flavors. the experience that comes with the latest and most advanced equipment.
âWe are thrilled,â said co-owner Tracy Johnstone. âFor me, it’s like building a new house. It looks a lot like me, and I have the same sense of pride and I want every little thing to be perfect. But of course I get that ‘new car’ kind of feeling. “
The Johnstones own several franchises in the area, including US 98 and Michigan Avenue. But the state store 77 had fulfilled its role, pressed on all sides by other businesses and a wider road. It became a bit of a challenge for some drivers heading south on the 77 trying to navigate the entrance from a right turn lane serving multiple businesses and southbound traffic. US 231.
After all, when the store opened in 1977, things were simpler, and that didn’t just apply to having plenty of room, but another hour with a different menu.
Those who were growing up, or had already grown up, in the ’70s may recall that in 1977, McDonald’s was hyper focused on Ronald McDonald and the gang – Mayor McCheese, Grimace, the Hamburglar, et al – in most of it. its commercials and a hacker frequently joined pushing them to push the fish fillet.
The menu was simpler: Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, cheeseburgers / burgers and fish fillets completing the sandwich menu, with fries, apple pies, soft drinks and those little character-shaped cookies. The Happy Meal was still two years away, and the McRib wouldn’t appear until 1982, though it was followed by a number of items, including salads.
It is with a touch of irony that Johnstone notes that the menu at the new Bay City Point store will feature a menu more akin to a traditional McDonald’s than it does today, and it started after Hurricane Michael in 2018 when stores that reopened had to do so with basic offers.
Then came COVID-19.
The old store was closed before the new store opened because, again due to Hurricane Michael, much of the equipment is only a year or two old and is being moved to the new one. shop.
âThe confidence is that, from COVID, we’re now closer to our roots from our main menu than we’ve ever been, which is an interesting juxtaposition with the new equipment – we were making grilled salads and for the right now we’re out of that, “she said.” How the full menu will evolve is to be determined (to be determined) for sure.
âThe supply chain is the lifeblood of every industry and ours has been disrupted, so by streamlining and simplifying we were able to reopen,â she continued. “From the data we got, there’s no denying that this meets the needs of our customers, and you don’t have to be everything to everyone.”
While the owners are thrilled and the friends at McDonald’s patiently wait, the teams are also thrilled to be working at a new store with new equipment, Johnstone said. Many currently go to a McDonald’s in Freeport, which has the latest equipment and production system, for training.
And while being excited about the new store, Johnstone said it was emotional to step away from the old one.
âThe hurricane had an impact on our feelings about this,â she said. âYou work so hard to restore the original store and even reopen it after the hurricane, and walking away from it is even a different feeling. But when you walk into the new restaurant and everything is last and greatest and the latest technology., you can see what the future holds. “
Johnstone isn’t just talking about the new store, she’s talking about Panama City and Bay County and the rejuvenation that continues.
It is important to Tracy and Tim Johnstone that people remember that they are not intruders who came in with a plan and a franchise, they are part of the community.
âWe are a local family who have been here for over 44 years doing business in this community and giving back to this community and that is your McDonald’s hometown, âJohnstone said. It’s not just another corporate brand that has come down. “
As part of this, the Johnstones teamed up with Kevin Elliot, co-founder and producer of Wewa Movies document the construction of a new store in a series of short documentaries, “Make a McDonald’s”, available on Youtube.
âWe do these episodes, ‘The making of McDonald’s’ and we posted them and it became a very emotional moment,â she said. âWe just shot our 10th episode and it’s interesting how engaged people have been with this series.
âWe realized that we had a story to tell and that there is a lot of history here and that we are part of the fabric of this community,â she continued. “So it was a very beautiful thing to see unfold.”