STAUNTON — In 1952, Wright’s Dairy-Rite opened offering only curb-side service.
By the 1970s, the restaurant began serving milk shakes and hamburgers to customers in a dining room area.
But thanks to COVID-19 quarantine and restrictions, Wright’s is having flashbacks to the 1950s.
“Now we’re back to where we started in 1952,” said co-owner Elwood Cash.
Cash said the restaurant on Greenville Avenue began offering curbside, carry out and in-car service only as of last week.
“At one time, that was all we had,” Cash said of the restaurant’s origins.
According to Cash, days at the restaurant right now feel like “we’ve been put back in time.”
Wright’s Dairy-Rite was founded on Greenville Avenue by Forester and Alka Wright. Daughter Shirley Wright and son-in-law Elwood James took over ownership after the Wrights died in the early 1970s.
Wright’s General Manager Jim Cash said he remembers in the early 1970s when fast food restaurants began to become popular.
“This mode of service was deemed antiquated,” said Jim Cash of curbside service. “But we kept it going. It’s just kind of ironic in a sense that in a time of crisis — in a pandemic — social isolation” Wright’s is set up for the best business.
Jim Cash said that is what his father, Elwood Cash, wanted for the restaurant.
From 1957 to 1977, Wright’s fed customers curbside only, then what is now the entrance of the restaurant was built. An additional dining room was built in the 1990s.
“I just think it’s ironic we kept our drive-in — now it works great,” Elwood Cash said.
Along the way, founders Forester and Alka Wright made the right business decisions, then Shirley and Elwood Cash continued to make the right business decisions for the restaurant.
The restaurant is keeping its same business hours, and, according to Jim Cash, no adjustments have been made to staff, which includes 25 hourly employees working part time and full time.
“That’s our main wish is that everyone stays employed,” Jim Cash said.
Elwood Cash said everything at Wright’s is “like it was before [coronavirus].”
Customers can pull up in their cars and order food brought out by waiters, on warm days patio tables and chairs are set up six-feet apart in accordance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s restrictions for social distancing, and, as always, carry-out is an option.
As Elwood Cash said, for 35 years dining in at Wright’s was not an option for customers. And in 2020, dining in is not an option again.
He said teenagers would drive their cars around the Wright’s parking lot in the 1950s and 1960s.
“This was a hangout for teenagers,” he said.
During all seasons, Jim Cash said the restaurant’s dine-in option is No. 1 among customers, but in the last week with the dining room closed that has changed.
“The curb[side] is just like crazy — numbers we’ve never seen,” Jim Cash said.
And while warm weather encourages more customers to frequent the restaurant on Route 11, Jim Cash said that cooler weather is still bringing 95% of the customer base in for hamburgers, ice cream cones, French fries and sodas.
“We’re very blessed to have [curbside],” Jim Cash said.
Charlie and Betty Barnes of Waynesboro drove in Tuesday afternoon and ate lunch in their car.
“It’s appropriate anytime,” said Charlie Barnes of curb-side service.
Betty Barnes said that she grew up in the area and has been coming to eat at Wright’s Dairy since she was 12 years old.