Save Taco Bell Numero Uno
What do you do when you can’t stay somewhere? You pack up and hit the road – and that’s exactly what we’re doing with the world’s first Taco Bell, located in Downey, California. On Thursday, November 19, we’re going to save Taco Bell Numero Uno from its impending demolition. We’ll be raising the Taco Bell from its 53-year-old foundation and relocating it to Taco Bell Headquarters in Irvine, taking the whole building on a 45-mile road trip through the streets of Southern California.
But before we talk about the future of the first Taco Bell, let’s reminisce about the glory days, and learn not just about the physical building, but the history of Taco Bell and the man who founded it.
By the age of 38, Glen Bell’s entrepreneurial fast food journey had taken several turns. With varying degrees of success, his restaurant ventures – Bell’s Burgers, Taco Tia and El Taco – were short-lived. Selling off each endeavor before its third anniversary, always in pursuit of what was next. But in Downey in 1962, things took a different, more permanent turn.
Located 10 miles south of Los Angeles, the city of Downey flourished and Glen saw its prosperity and growth as an opportunity to bring his latest vision to life – a Mexican-inspired center with shops, live music and fire pits, anchored by a taco stand called Taco Bell.
The 400 square foot building was no bigger than a two car garage. Mission-style arches framed a small walk-up window where Glen would shell out his five staples: Tostados, Burritos, Frijoles, Chiliburgers, and of course, Tacos, all for 19 cents. Shops and other food stands lined the plaza, flanked with fire pits and a stage in the back for live mariachi performances. Glen’s vision had come to life.
Still new to many customers, Glen revolutionized the quick-service style that introduced Mexican-inspired food to the masses. By 1964, just two years after the first Taco Bell, eight more restaurants sprinkled the Southern California region. By 1967 that number had grown to 100.
Taco Bell Numero Uno operated until it closed in 1986 due to the popularity of larger restaurants with indoor seating and drive-thrus, something it lacked. Since then, however, other taquerias called the Downey location home until it was vacated for good in December of 2014. With the large plot now vacant, plans for new development caused the building to face demolition. But we’re not going to let that happen.
Hence the road trip we mentioned earlier. For live check-ins of Taco Bell Numero Uno’s move, visit the livestream coverage from your desktop here. If you’re in the Southern California area and would like to see history on the move, check out the street route and key lookout points:
While the permanent future of the world’s first Taco Bell is yet to be decided, we’ll be looking to our biggest fans to help determine its future. Have ideas of what the first Taco Bell should become? Maybe it becomes a new restaurant with opening day prices from 1962, or possibly an innovation kitchen for inspiring restaurateurs. Share what you think the first Taco Bell should become by using #SaveTacoBell on Twitter.