Iowa History Daily: On May 1, 1926, the first Maid-Rite sandwich shop opened in Muscatine. Local Butcher Fred Angell combined a special cut and grind of meat with a secret set of spices to create the famous Iowa sandwich. When he tested it out on a local delivery man who quipped, “Fred, you know this sandwich is made right,” an American icon was born.
Angell first opened a walk-up stand on Cedar Street in Muscatine before ultimately building an eat-in building after initial success drove a need for expansion. Soon, a second ‘car hop’ drive-in style restaurant followed. Known as the first ‘car hop’ service in the United States, many competitors soon copied the idea originally hatched by Angell and his son Francis.
Franchises soon followed, and locations in Durant, Newton, and Marshalltown sprung up by 1928. Each of the four original Maid-Rite locations still operate today. The Angell family continued to maintain a controlling stake in the business until 1982. Sold to Clayton Blue and John Gillotti, the two battled in court for ownership until 1995 when the Polk County District Court awarded Gillotti ownership of the 138-store chain.
Overtime, the franchise started to struggle, and by 2002 only 83 Maid-Rite stores remained. Although ownership dynamics changed again in the early 2000s and big plans for expansion including a partnership with Hy-Vee. As of 2021, 21 Maid-Rite locations still operate throughout the state of Iowa, as well as eleven additional stores in other states.