A & W Root Beer, 3801 Perkiomen Ave. opened in 1964. According to a 1965 directory, Leroy A. and A. Jean Burkholder opened the place, which immediately created a sensation. Young ladies clad in Scotch-plaid super-short mini-skirts delivered your order on a specially designed tray that attached to the sill of an opened car window.
The big attraction – other than the girls – was a large 5-cent frosted mug of root beer. A frosted mug of anything was a real novelty at that time.
As to the origin of the soft drink itself, a company history reports that one hot day in June of 1919, in Lodi, California, an entrepreneur named Roy W. Allen mixed up a batch of creamy root beer and sold the first frosty mug of the beverage for a nickel. Allen purchased the root beer formula from a pharmacist in Arizona.
With the success of his first root beer stand in Lodi, Allen soon opened a second in nearby Stockton, California, and five stands in nearby Sacramento. It was there that the country’s first drive-in, featuring “tray-boys” for curb-side service, opened to the public.
In 1920, Allen took on a partner, Frank Wright, an employee from his original Lodi location. The two combined their last-name initials and formally christened the beverage A & W Root Beer.
In 1924, Allen bought Wright’s share, obtained a trademark, and began selling restaurant franchises.
A & W was one of the first franchised restaurant chains in the United States. Driven by the popularity of the automobile and the new mobile society, more than 450 A&W Root Beer stands were operating by 1950. By 1960, the number of A&W restaurants swelled to more than 2,000.
Young men of Exeter were pleased that by the time the enterprise reached Berks, the California “tray-boys” gave way to “tray-girls.” That, however, changed within a few years as Exeter’s A & W hired some young men – and by the time the operation ceased, around 1974, curb service was a thing of the past.
Domino’s Pizza now occupies the much-altered structure at 3801 Perkiomen Avenue. The obvious point of reference in both views is the former A & W roof-top sign.
In the late 1980s, the Noid, pizza’s worst enemy, was painted on the side of the roof-top sign facing Reading under the ownership of Vicky Miller. Today, the Noid is little more than a nostalgic memory.