Children ran circles around Ronald McDonald, balloons floated up to the high ceiling and patrons receive engraved spatulas as a “thank you” for their support.
The New Hyde Park McDonald’s grand opening was on March 22, 1991. Its owner, Larry Anderer, remembers the day like it was yesterday.
Nicknamed “Larry McDonald,” Anderer this year is celebrating his 22nd anniversary as owner of the McDonald’s, which is housed in a Georgian-style mansion dating to 1795.
“We took a big risk putting all our assets into this business, but on opening day, we had a huge turnout,” said Anderer, 71, of Rockville Centre.
Anderer worked in data processing at IBM and as managing director of Wall Street County NatWest Government Security, a subsidiary of debunked British company National Westminster Bank, until it closed in 1989. He then moved on to business franchising.
“When the firm closed on Wall Street, I sat down and reflected about where I wanted to go from there,” Anderer said. “At the time, McDonald's wasn't so trendy, so it was a safe risk to take.”
The mansion, formerly known as the Denton House, was abandoned before McDonald’s purchased the property in 1985. Residents were upset with the idea of it being torn down to look like a typical fast-food facility, so they petitioned for historic landmark status and won in 1987. Anderer pays fees to the franchise to own and operate the McDonald’s.
The house, which is commonly referred to as “McMansion,” was restored to its former glory and has retained its 1920s exterior look with white pillars and blue shutters.
“We overcame opposition because we took great strides to go out into the community to make sure we did everything we could to make it right,” Anderer said. “In my opinion, it’s a faithful replication of what it looked like in the 1920s.”
Larry Anderer’s son, Michael Anderer, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. Michael, now 42, learned the trade in his father’s McDonald’s and now owns locations in Mineola and West Hempstead.
“I saw how much he enjoyed what he was doing and I wanted to be able to partner with him on something that gave him success,” said Michael Anderer, whom Larry Anderer and his wife Joan adopted from South Vietnam in 1971 after Larry served in the Marines there from 1965-66. “I saw what the commute and pressures of being an executive on Wall Street did to him over the years. After seeing his energy come back when building something on his own, I wanted to be a part of that.”
Bill and Deborah DiNoia walked into the quaint restaurant on Wednesday, their eyes drawn to the high ceiling, T-shaped staircase and hanging patchwork quilt with golden arches sewn on.
“This place is gorgeous,” said Deborah DiNoia, 61, of Levittown. “We travel a lot, so we eat at McDonald’s all the time and there’s no McDonald’s like this. It’s just so homey.”
Her husband, who was treated for kidney stones earlier that day, hadn’t eaten in 24 hours.
“We’ve been driving by for years and I’ve always wanted to stop in,” said Bill DiNoia, 61. “It helps that I’m starving. I’m glad we finally made it in.”
The couple ordered their usual Big Mac and Angus burger, respectively, with Diet Cokes.
“I’m going to tell my daughter and her kids about this and then they’re going to come here,” Deborah DiNoia said. “I’d describe this place as walking into a restaurant, not into a franchise. “I’m coming back. I feel very comfortable here.”