The Portillo Restaurant Group is celebrating 50 years of business that all began as a modest hot dog stand. According to the Chicago Sun-Times:
Dick Portillo and his wife Sharon had two young children in the early 1960s, and, like a lot of young couples, struggled to get ahead. She waited tables, and in the first 18 months of their marriage he worked 14 different jobs: unloading box cars, digging ditches, laboring in a junkyard.
He watched the kids during the day, handed them to Sharon when she came home, and headed out to one of his own backbreaking jobs. Not that he minded. He was an ex-Marine, and still in good shape. But he had bigger ideas. So in 1963, at the age of 23, he took the $1,100 he and Sharon had saved for a house and used it to build a hot dog stand — actually a little hut on a 6-by-12-foot trailer, with no bathroom or running water.
“I thought, ‘If I’m going to put in all of these hours, why not work for myself?’” says Dick Portillo, who at 74 recently celebrated his company’s 50th anniversary. Today he employs more than 4,000 people in four states — Illinois, Indiana, Arizona and California — and that $1,100 investment turned out to be the best chance he ever took.