TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Later this year, Eegee's will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The Tucson original has been able to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic while other restaurant chains have struggled.
Eegee's is now expanding the number of locations as many other restaurants have gone under.
"We had a banner year," said Eegee's Chief Executive Officer Ron Petty.
A banner year despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We exceeded our 2019 sales by double-digits," according to Petty.
That's right, Eegee's overcame the challenges of the pandemic to record a double-digit increase in sales from 2019 to 2020.
"The great thing is we have drive-thrus," Petty said during a Zoom interview.
He gives much of the credit to having a drive-thru concept already in place at Eeegee's, before COVID hit.
"I'd rather be lucky than smart, right? So, the fact that all of our stores has drive-thrus was a blessing during this pandemic."
Petty says Eegee's drive-thrus began to handle the bulk of the business, especially when people didn't want to get out of the safety of their car.
Pre-COVID, 65% of their business was at the drive-thru.
"During COVID, the height of it, we went up to 85% and we've settled in at about 75% with another 15% takeout," Petty said.
At the start of the pandemic, Petty admits he was afraid the local restaurant chain wouldn't be able to keep all of its employees.
He's proud to say Eegee's persevered and then thrived.
"Big concern I always have is about our people," said Petty. "We had no furloughs, we didn't have to lay anybody off."
Now in 2021, Eegee's is going forward with a major remodel and expansion plan.
All of the existing stores will be remodeled by the end of next year.
Next month, they'll open two new locations. One at Irvington and I-19, the other on Tanque Verde at Bear Canyon.
By the end of the year, Eegee's will have six new locations. That will bringing the Tucson total to 31.
"In quick service, convenience is the number one factor," Petty explained. "We just had a lot of voids in the market. It wasn't close or convenient to come to an Eegee's. So, by the time we finish this year we will have filled in a majority of those voids."
Not only is Petty filling the voids for Eegee's locations in Tucson, he's also expanding into the Phoenix market.
The first of five Valley locations will open in June.
He says because so many people living in Phoenix either once lived in Tucson or went to school here, there is already a high demand for the frozen Eegee's treat.
"We have a very, very high brand awareness up there," said Petty. "We have a very high demand of putting stores up there."
Petty points out that Eegee's was voted "Best Fast Food in Arizona" last year by Food & Wine magazine. It was also named top dessert in the state by BuzzFeed.
Two more reasons Eegee's is expanding beyond Tucson.