Credit to the San Pablo Historical and Museum Society (SPHMS) for recently raising awareness that Nation’s Giant Hamburgers is celebrating its 70th anniversary in business. In case you didn’t know, San Pablo is the birthplace of the still-growing burger chain, and, according to the company, “hot dogs is actually how Nation’s Giant Hamburgers got its start back in 1952.”
Of course, the story starts a bit earlier.
Acccording to SPHMS, Russ Harvey was employed by Butler steel manufacturer for the Richmond shipyards when he went looking for a second, part-time job to supplement his income. He asked the owner of Al’s, a six-stool hot dog stand at the corner of San Pablo Ave. and Dam Road, if he needed help on the weekends. Al said, “Nope, no jobs, but I’ll sell it to you,” stated the Society.
Harvey sold a used 1948 Buick to purchase the business, and when he added giant hamburgers to the grill with tons of toppings, the lines grew long.
In 1961, Harvey gave a Richmond High School student named Dale Power a job cleaning up, according to Paul Kilduff in an article published in The Monthly and shared on the Nation’s website. Power worked for Harvey as a maintenance person, a janitor, and a manager through his college and graduate school years, and by 1970 Power went into business with Harvey to open his own giant hamburger shop near Jack London Square, according to Kilduff, whose article includes a Q&A with Power.
“He only had one condition—that all the ‘giant’ hamburger places Harvey had by then opened with other partners be called ‘Nation’s’ Giant Hamburgers,” according to Kilduff. “The reason? Power and Harvey agreed that they made the best hamburgers in the nation.”
Currently, Nation’s has 28 stores, mostly in the East Bay, and the company is growing. Its headquarters is located at 11090 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.
Mike Kinney contributed to this story