Part of an interview with Harry Sax on April 8, 2015. In this clip, Sax talks about bringing the Arby's franchise to Las Vegas in the 1960s after doing market research on the population here. He and his partner realized the correlation between disposable income and access to retail that allowed them to be successful.
Harry Sax oral history interview, 2015 April 08. OH-02286. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1513xg0b
I want to know a little bit about Arby's franchise. Sure. When was it started? Arby's was started in 1964 by two nice Jewish boys named Leroy and Forrest Raffel in Boardman, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown. They decided, after looking at the fast food landscape in the '60s, that they wanted to open up a fast food place that sold something other than hamburgers, and so they decided that roast beef would be a higher quality item to sell. So they started the business. My partner bought a franchise for the South Side of Chicago. What was his name? Mike Schulson. He's still my partner today. Still lives in Chicago. He and I subsequently formed a partnership for Nevada. I moved out here to be the operating partner of our franchise in 1968 and it's been my day job ever since. Had you come to Las Vegas prior to that? Never been here. I came out here with my partner to look and see if this was an area where we wanted to open up Arby's. My degree in school was marketing and I did market research in those days. We didn't have computers, so it was very hard to collect data; it was all done manually. But I came up with something that I thought was a very curious aberration. Las Vegas in 1968 had about a hundred and fifty thousand people and so did Salt Lake City; but Las Vegas seemed to have about twice as many retail establishments, especially grocery stores, as Salt Lake City. I thought that was a mistake. But when I researched it I found out that that was valid info. The only thing that I can think of was that in 1968 there were a ton of people, as there are today, who make their living in the gaming industry and a lot of them had income that maybe they weren't reporting to the IRS. You think? Or putting it in a bank. So as a result, you had a huge amount of disposable income that didn't show up in anybody's numbers except for retail sales because when you have a huge amount of disposable income, you spend more. So I thought, well, here is a town that has this very wonderful aberration, this tremendous amount of disposable income. The weather was good. We had all the entertainment. No state income tax. So all of those things convinced me and my partner that this was a great place to open up an Arby's and to develop several stores here.