Volo Auto Museum seeks to purchase McDonald’s replica

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Chicago visitor Barry Feinberg lives in North Carolina, but made the time to see the Des Plaines replica of the first McDonald’s franchise store opened by Ray Kroc. (Photo courtesy of Barry and Susan Feinberg)

A piece of history in the city of Des Plaines will be torn down, as the Oakbrook-based McDonald’s Corp. has decided to raze the replica of the first franchised store by Ray Kroc, built in the mid-1980s, due to chronic site flooding during exceptional rain events. The museum was closed to the public, and access is denied to the site on Lee Street by a large black perimeter fence.

The company’s mid-November announcement included a decision to remove the iconic McDonald’s sign with the golden arches, and the cook, “Speedee,” carrying the famous “15 cents” placard, which itself is more than six decades old. The site is revered by fans and nostalgia buffs for being the first franchised store built by Kroc, after returning from his visit with the McDonalds brothers, with only two outlets operating at the time.

The Volo Auto Museum, operated by the Grams family, was solicited by people on social media to obtain the structure and its contents. The next step found Brian Grams, one of the owners and partners of the museum, contacting the Oakbrook headquarters about a potential purchase and paying to move it more than 30 miles to the museum’s 35-acre grounds.

“I didn’t even know it had existed, but we started having people reach out to us, on social media, about what a great addition it would be here,” said Grams. “It’d be a perfect fit for our nostalgia theme, so we sent a few email inquiries to the Oakbrook corporate headquarters about buying it, or a portion of it. We haven’t been able to get through to them, and we’re hoping they’ll reach back out to us. We haven’t spoken to anyone directly, and we have no cost estimates.

“The other problem is they said there was significant flood damage, and we have no cost estimates or information on that aspect,” he said. “There may be rotten wood that would preclude any moving of the structure … I don’t know. It would be nice to save it, and bring it here.”

The city of Des Plaines refused to comment on the issue of flooding on Lee Street, a branch roadway off the main Route 14 commercial corridor, or any other efforts to mitigate McDonald’s plans. Instead, they referred all questions to an email address for the company’s headquarters. There was no response to requests for comment.

A diorama of a typical McDonald’s drive-in restaurant on a Saturday night is one of the displays in the closed replica building. (Photo courtesy of Barry and Susan Feinberg)

The Lee Street replica also doubled as a museum of McDonald’s-related memorabilia, including original oak barrel soda pop dispensers for Coca-Cola and Root Beer soda pops, the carousel ice cream shake-making machine, numerous dioramas, and photographs. People, nationally and internationally, have come to the site to see where Ray Kroc got his start, aided by the 2016 film, “The Founder.”

“My wife, Susie, and I live in North Carolina,” said visitor Barry Feinberg. “I’ve always wanted to see it, and it became kind of a pilgrimage for me, while we were in Chicago. Too bad, we couldn’t go inside.”

The Volo Auto Museum and Antique Mall, located on Old Volo Road, near the intersection of routes 12 and 120, was started by the Grams family in 1960 as a nostalgia attraction with a “wild west” and “turn of the century” street scene. Straddling the border between Lake and McHenry counties, it now extends to several large buildings with multi-level antique dealer booths, as well as the collector car display-dealership in a separate facility.

Their major association has been with the late Carroll Selby, the creator of iconic film and television vehicles such as the “Adam West Television-Version” of the Batmobile, the “Boot Hill Express,” the “Munsters’ Dragula,” and other notable cars.

“It would be a good fit here; we’ll have to wait and see,” said Grams.


Volo Auto Museum seeks to purchase McDonald’s replica–