Nov 4, 2015

Darrin and Darrin get Inducted into the 2013 White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame

by Darrin Vindiola

What does a morning radio DJ, a dentist, an engineer, and an NFL star have in common?  They are four of the thirteen folks who got inducted into the 2013 White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame with my son and I. 

A story I shared about a 1900 mile road trip my son and I took to feast at White Castle, secured us a coveted spot in the Cravers Hall of Fame.  I also learned from a fellow Craver, that we were the first ever father and son duo to be inducted.  Here's a quick run down on my fellow band of Cravers..

The class of 2013 inductees and their stories:
  • John Engen, Anoka, MN – "DJ Number One" – John is a radio
    personality who has made it widely known that he loves White Castle.
    This notoriety helped him become the first guest of honor at a new
    restaurant built in the Minneapolis region. He also visited every White
    Castle restaurant in the state over a two week vacation in 2005.
  • Steve Klein, Ledgewood, NJ – "A Craver's Best Friend" – Steve
    will be inducted for visiting White Castle every day for one year and
    attending the Valentine's Day event with his wife every year. Steve has
    also traveled to visit every White Castle in New Jersey and refuses to
    visit any other quick service restaurant.
  • Darrin Vindiola (father) and Darrin Vindiola (son), Evans, CO – "Craver Road Trip"
    – This father and son duo's Crave for White Castle drove them to make a
    1,900-mile road trip through six states for a taste of The Original
  • Kevin Downey, Brooklyn, NY – "Castle Compass" – When Kevin
    was a young child, his father taught him how to navigate Brooklyn using a
    road map with stars denoting the White Castle locations. His prize for
    finding the White Castle was a lunch of Sliders and French Fries. Kevin
    now plays the White Castle map game with his own children.
  • Ned O'Malia, Albuquerque, NM – "Sibling Rivalry" – Ned and
    his sister Mary entered the Crave Time Cook-Off recipe contest and out
    of 458 entries, the sister and brother duo won first and second place.
    Since then, both have entered the Cravers Hall of Fame contest – but
    this year Ned was the winner.
  • Barry Cash, Somers, NY – "Slider Slumber Party" – A storm hit
    when Barry was working as an assistant director for a summer day camp.
    He helped usher 100 children to shelter in a local community center.
    Then Barry ran out to the nearest Castle and purchased 400 Sliders and
    126 orders of French Fries and saved the night.
  • Paul Johnson, Taft, TN – "Precious Cargo" – Paul, a
    self-proclaimed all-time Craver, was traveling to meet his wife's family
    in Singapore and decided to freeze 10 Sliders and take them on his
    24-hour journey. Paul repeated this process when he traveled to Panama
    and again to Moscow, Russia.
  • Jeff Maurer, Wilmington, IL – "Inconvenient Cravings" – Jeff
    risked being late to his own wedding to satisfy his Crave. He couldn't
    resist going through the drive-thru just minutes before the ceremony. At
    2 a.m. on their way home from the wedding, Jeff and his wife stopped at
    a local White Castle. While Jeff and his bride were celebrating their
    nuptials, he spilled the drinks onto her wedding dress. She was
    understanding of his Crave, and they're still married 22 years later.
  • Alice & Samuel Marks, Port Aransas, TX – "Home is Where the Slider Is"
    –After retiring, Alice and her husband moved from Minneapolis to South
    Texas, Alice knew that she had to keep the tradition of serving
    Thanksgiving Slider Stuffing. While grocery shopping for Thanksgiving,
    she discovered frozen Sliders in the freezer section and surprised her
    husband with their favorite Thanksgiving tradition – Slider Stuffing.
  • Lucretia Henard, High Point, NC – "The Original Slider Saga"
    Lucretia discovered her love for The Original Slider® when she moved to
    Minneapolis to attend the Humboldt Airline Institute. She passed on the
    Crave to her son who grew up to be a semitruck driver. Her son had
    heard his mom talk about White Castle most of his life, and he decided
    to surprise her after a drive through Ohio and brought a sack of Sliders
    to his Craver mom.
  • Anthony "Spice" Adams (Retired Defensive Tackle for the 49er's and Bears) - Former Chicago Bear player Anthony Adams helped White Castle reach their fundraising
    goal for "Autism Speaks", and for this noble reason, was a 2013 honorary Craver Hall of Fame inductee.

It's hard to even know where to begin when explaining how wonderful the experience of being inducted into the Cravers Hall of Fame was this week, so let me start at the beginning.  White Castle flew my son and I out to Columbus Ohio, put us up in first class accommodations, and treated us like rock stars for the duration of our trip.

Upon getting into Columbus, we were met by a driver at the airport who escorted us to our hotel in a Towncar.  Once we got settled in, we called a cab and headed to the nearest and one of the oldest White Castle stores in Columbus.

965 North High Street, the location of  White Castle #13

This was the first taste of freshly prepared White Castle sliders we've been able to enjoy since our summer vacation back in July!  On deck were double bacon cheeseburger sliders, jalapeno and cheese sliders, and of course some original classic White Castle sliders.  We relished in feasting on the steam grilled goodness, and then took in some sights downtown.

The next day, all of the inductees were picked up at the hotel and taken to the White Castle headquarters in Columbus.  Right off the bat, we were treated to a wonderful lunch which included lots of delicious White Castle fare.

My son digging into a White Castle slider

After lunch we were given a tour of the White Castle offices, and got to see our names emblazoned on plaques amongst 159 of our other fellow Cravers inducted since 2001.


We also were taken on a tour of White Castle's manufacturing division.  As a White Castle enthusiast, this tour was incredibly fascinating, and gave us much insight on exactly why White Castle is such a successful company.  We learned that White Castle prefers to manufacture their own fixtures and kitchen equipment, rather than buying them from other companies.  They also own their own USDA approved and inspected meat plants, bakeries, and frozen food plants.  A self sufficient company, creating permanent American jobs.  How can you not admire that?

We also learned that they have gained a reputation for superior steel and metal fabrication, which allows them to fabricate parts in the USA and sell them to other businesses including ones in other countries.  They are well diversified, which is something that many companies in this day and age have gotten away from.  I once worked for one of Americas greatest companies which I won't mention (think camera film).  I watched them repeatedly downsize throughout the years, and they eventually found themselves swimming in debt, with no alternate ways to generate more revenue.

 Newly made Grill soon to be shipped to a new store in New Jersey

The White Castle business model is not only impressive, but respectable as well.  The company founder Billy Ingram once said “We have no right to expect loyalty, except from those to whom we are loyal.”  He also said “I believe we can attribute our success to two things: the constant desire to improve in all activities and the belief that happy people are the most profitable asset a company can have.”

I can only imagine how much greater our nation would be if more businesses followed White Castle's fine example.  It's companies like White castle that made our country great, and I have high hopes that people will wake up someday soon, and move towards forming business models like theirs.

The induction ceremony

After our tour was over, it was time for our induction ceremony.  Every inductee had time at the podium to share our stories, and to thank the White Castle family for the once in a lifetime opportunity and honor that they had bestowed upon us.  No two stories were alike, and every person was an absolute joy to listen to.

My son and I are pictured here with White Castle President Lisa Ingram, and assistant Vice President and General Manager Dave Rife.  You may remember seeing Mr. Rife on an episode of the CBS hit show "Undercover Boss".. an episode that excited White Castle fans to no end!

 Vice President, Government and Shareholder Relations Jamie Richardson,
 and NFL Tackle Anthony "Spice" Adams

Our fellow 2013 inductee Anthony "Spice" Adams helped White Caste reach an illustrious fundraising goal for the Charity "Autism Speaks", and they returned the favor by rewarding Anthony with $20,000.00 to a charity of his choice.  If you happened to miss it, Anthony announced his NFL retirement that year in this hilarious YouTube video.  White Castle also made a video with Anthony, showcasing his tryout to get on their team!  Anthony has also since made a video showcasing his trip to the White Castle Hall of Fame.

Later in the evening, we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, which houses the Ohio
Historical Society's central museum, archives, library and administrative staff.  The museum was closed down to the general public, and we were able to roam about before and after dinner at our leisure.  

It was quite a lively and fun experience.  There was a nifty photo booth set up for us to goof around in.  Roaming about were some people that were dressed up and acting the parts of mid century characters.  There was a Welcome Wagon lady that greeted us at the front door, and a bloke who was playing the part of a golden throated bomb shelter salesman, complete with an old brochure in hand.

Of particular interest to all of the inductees was a reproduction of an old White Castle facade.  Behind the glass windows were tidbits of memorabilia and antiques from years past, ranging from restaurant utensils to matchbooks. 

White Castle has a long standing relationship with the Ohio Historical Society, and their archives are even housed within their walls.  It's a great museum that I highly recommend visiting if you ever happen to be in the Columbus area.

A late night run to "The Castle"
At the end of the evening, we were all given the choice to either be taken back to our hotel, or to go on a late night White Castle run.  I'm proud to say that every last Craver resoundingly chose to grab a bite to eat at White Castle.  White Castle graciously picked up the bill, and we all immensely enjoyed dining on the very food that has become such a big part of our lives.

Inside White Castle #13 for a late night snack

Our Girl Sundina

I'd be remiss without saying a few words about our gracious coordinator Sundina.  She's the one who called me and sprung the news of our induction into the Cravers Hall of Fame.  She was our contact and lifeline on the odd chance that anything went awry.  She arranged the transportation and accommodations for the duration of our trip, made sure we had everything we needed, directed us, led us, and always made absolutely sure that we were in the know during every leg of our journey.  She's one heck of a gal, and is exceptionally good at what she does. 

All good things must come to an end
Many in our "Band of Cravers" expressed that they were not ready for our experience to end, and my son and I shared those sentiments as well.  I'm no social butterfly, and it takes me a little bit longer than most to loosen up in certain social situations.  I enjoyed the company of every one of my fellow Cravers, and just as I started to become more comfortable and at ease, sadly the night came to an end. 

Looking back, I'm still in awe about how incredible this whole experience was.  It wasn't just because it was an all expense paid trip, and all the White Castle Sliders we could eat.  What it boils down to is people, and that's not what I was expecting at all.  White Caste is not a soulless corporation that's 100% focused on the almighty dollar.  The president, and everyone else entrusted with operating the company were real, down to earth folks.  I felt their sincerity when they repeatedly and personally thanked us for being such loyal and faithful customers. 

Every single employee I met seemed to have an air of happiness about them, and were very gracious.  Folks from the front offices to the machining floor all seemed very appreciative and happy to see us all.  I spoke to administrative employees, regional managers, and folks from their frozen food and meat processing plants.  All expressed to me that they loved their jobs, and could truly tell that they are cared about as employees.  All the workers credited this to the business being family owned, with core values being passed down through the years.

As many of my readers know, I am a huge retro enthusiast, with an affinity for classic Americana.  From the family run business model that's so efficiently executed, to the way the company graciously treats their employees, customers, and competition, White Castle is truly a class act in a sea of faceless corporations.  They are old school for sure, and that class resonates throughout everything they do.  They take a special interest in their customers and especially their most passionate cravers.  They totally understand the phenomenon and embrace it wholeheartedly.  That level of customer appreciation is what will help the Ingram family to enjoy another 92 successful years in the business.

I was already a White Castle fanatic long before this trip, and my son has been eating White Castle sliders since before he could walk or talk.  Now we are both certified Cravers, and have a deep and
profound respect for the company we never had prior to this trip.  Since I've gotten back home, I've talked about our trip non stop to anyone who will listen, and have schooled many a person on White Castle's long and rich history.   My whole family are huge fans of the White Castle brand, and we'd like to thank the entire White Castle family for all of the great memories they've helped us to create over the years.  Rest assured that my family will be Cravers for life.

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