Glen William Bell, Jr. (September 3, 1923 – January 16, 2010), sometimes spelled as Glenn Bell, was an American businessman and the founder and chairman of Taco Bell from 1962 to 2010.
Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story, a book about Bell's life, was published on February 1, 1999.
On January 16, 2010, Bell died of Parkinson's disease in Rancho Santa Fe, California at age 86. Following his death, he was succeeded by Greg Creed.
Bell was born Glen William Bell, Jr. in Lynwood, California on September 3, 1923. When he was 5, his family moved to a small farm in Oregon. As the depression came on, he started to sell cottage cheese door to door.
In 1934, Bell and his family moved to a 10-acre mountainside orchard, owned by his maternal grandmother. The family, now with 5 children, was more or less self-sufficient with the orchard, a garden, and chickens. Once again, Bell had become the salesman, peddling eggs, apples, and flowers.
Halfway through high school, Bell hopped freight trains and roamed from Iowa to Washington to seek work, sometimes on his relatives' farms. He spent a summer in Washington, D.C. with a great aunt and had learned to bake blackberry pies and sell them as Mrs. Dye's Homemade Pies. Soon, they split a profit of $3,000 and Bell decided he wanted to own his own food stand.
A book about Bell's life titled Taco Titan: The Glen Bell Story was written by Debra Lee Baldwin and published in 1999.
After graduating from high school in 1941, Bell started working for the U.S. Forestry Service and for the military near Barstow before joining the United States Marines Corps. His wartime service as a waiter serving top military brass in the South Pacific taught him how to balance the amount of food needed by specific numbers of diners and the importance of clean and prompt service.
In 1946, at age 23, Bell left the military, returned to San Bernardino, and worked in a brickyard and the railroad yard before starting his first hamburger stand Bell's Drive-In in 1948. In 1952, he sold his hamburger stand to in-laws and built a second one that sold hamburgers and hot dogs. When he developed and sold his first 19-cent taco at that location, Bell separated himself from his admired neighboring competitors Mac and Dick McDonald. Unfortunately, his success, built through long work days, destroyed his 6-year marriage to Dorothy Taylor, the mother of his oldest son Rex. In 1953, Bell and Taylor got divorced.
As he restlessly built new stores and explored developing chains of food shops with partners (only to sell his interests), he influenced the creation of such fast-food brands as Taco Tia, Del Taco, El Taco, and even Der Wienerschnitzel (whose owner he tutored).
In 1953, at age 30, he struck out for Barstow and started Bell's Hamburgers, selling tacos and hamburgers. He took on partner Ed Hackbarth, who founded Del Taco in 1964. He took on another partner named Al McDonald, a variety store owner, to build a new taco stand in San Bernardino, which was the first-dubbed Taco Tia. After adding Taco Tias in Riverside and Redlands, Bell sold out to McDonald, who opposed his insistence on further expansion.
On March 21, 1962, Bell decided to go solo and sold the El Tacos to his partner and opened his first Taco Bell in Downey, California. In 1964, Bell franchised his restaurant, and his company immediately grew. In 1978, the 868-restaurant chain was sold to PepsiCo for $125 million in stock.
Glen Bell Scholarship Program
Taco Bell employees who work at least 15 hours per week and have been employed by Bell for at least 6 months are eligible to receive up to $2000 towards tuition at a 4-year college or $1000 towards a 2-year college.
Since 1947, Bell was married to Dorothy Taylor. In 1953, they divorced after Bell's success destroyed his marriage.
In 1955, he married a teacher named Martha "Marty" Ahl and struck out on his own again in Pasadena. However, Bell misjudged the clientele and his Taco Tia on Colorado Boulevard failed to show a profit. Later, Martha gave birth to 3 children named Kathleen, Gary, and Rex.
Since 1985, Bell had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
He is survived by his wife Martha, his children Kathleen, Gary, and Rex, 3 sisters, and 4 grandchildren.
Taco Bell president Greg Creed stated, "Glen Bell was a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry, as well as a dedicated family man."
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