TAHOE CITY, Calif. - After serving Happy Meals, French fries and Big Macs to customers for more than 30 years, the Tahoe City McDonald's recently closed its doors.
The fast food restaurant's final day was Jan. 31, due to it not being "financially feasible" to sign a new lease at its location in the Lighthouse Center, said Tom Teague, former owner and operator of the Tahoe City McDonald's.
"I really appreciate the business given to us over the years by Tahoe City," Teague said.
Accounts vary as to when McDonald's opened for business in Tahoe City. Teague, the third owner of the restaurant, said it opened sometime between 1981 and 1982.
Yet, according to the lease, the restaurant opened in the late 1970s, said Paul Gaddis, project manager at Schlosser Development, a property development and management company based in Austin, Texas, that acquired the Lighthouse Center from Safeway in January 2011.
When it was first announced McDonald's would be moving into Tahoe City, it was met with community resistance, said Ed Miller, a Tahoe resident since 1976.
"It was very controversial," he said. "It was sort of the invasion of the corporate chain restaurant, which was very unusual. For the most part, people were not terribly happy about it. It was the first really big franchise to be here, and it sort of marked an out-of-town entity having a foothold."
He went on to say that the "hoopla" soon wore off after the restaurant opened for business, with people ultimately accepting the franchise.
"It rapidly sort of assimilated into the geography of downtown Tahoe City," Miller said.
Today, local feedback on the McDonald's closure is one of sadness, Teague said.
"There are very few inexpensive places or quick places to eat in this town," said Debbie Wohler, a Tahoe City resident who ate at McDonald's about once a week, usually for lunch. "As one of my friends said, 'it is nice to be able to eat at a place where you don't have to take out a loan before you go.'
"We have some wonderful restaurants in Tahoe; however, a lot of folks can only afford to eat there on special occasions."
Sarah Williams, a former Tahoe City resident and a mom of three, said she and her family used the restaurant to grab a quick snack or a meal when in a hurry.
"It's super affordable for families," she said, adding that it was also convenient and a friendly place to go, where she knew all the employees.
Teague said the Tahoe City restaurant employed 15 people, with a number of them being transferred to the Truckee McDonald's in the SaveMart Center off Highway 89, which he also owns, while others chose not to be transferred or were laid off.
"We're sorry that they closed," said Schlosser Development Property Manager Patti McClung.
Miller pointed out that closures, while unfortunate, are a part of business.
"It's something that happens in a cycle - businesses open and close," he said.
It is not known at this time what will go into the space next, Gaddis said.