Getting a piece of Tracy history
TRACY — The Red Rooster hadn’t seen a crowd for a couple of years, not since it closed down in 2015. But with a few minutes to go before the start of a Saturday equipment sale, around 10 people were lined up outside the restaurant doors. Others waited in cars and pickup trucks in the parking lot.
All were looking for a piece of the Red Rooster, before it was gone.
“As far as Tracy was concerned, it was an iconic business,” said Dennis Fultz, a member of the local nonprofit that organized the sale. The restaurant and truck stop was built along Highway 14 in Tracy in the late 1950s, although the business had been part of Tracy going back to the 1930s.
The Tracy Development Corporation organized the sale, to help clear out the building before demolition. The plan for the Red Rooster property is to have it “shovel-ready” for any prospective developers, Fultz said.
Furniture, signs and kitchen equipment in the restaurant were all marked with prices for the people browsing on Saturday morning. Organizers had already given local businesses a chance to look at the kitchen equipment first, Fultz said.
“We want someone to be able to use it, so it doesn’t get demolished,” Fultz said.
During the sale, some visitors were focused on getting restaurant equipment, like mixers or a pie case, for a good price. Others were looking for something to remember the Red Rooster by. People picked up old menus, signs and even dry-erase boards still covered in writing advertising the restaurant’s specials and pie flavors.
“Let’s see if there’s another sign,” one sale visitor said to another.
Renae Galbraith said she had seen the liquidation sale advertised on social media, and decided to come take a look.
“When I was younger, I used to come here with my grandpa,” Galbraith said of the Red Rooster. “It’s really sad to have to see it closed.” Besides looking getting the chance to look around the restaurant, Galbraith said she and Mark Galbraith were able to find some good chairs to buy.
Kevin Engelkes was among the people taking a look around inside the restaurant one last time. Engelkes’ parents, Don and Carolyn Engelkes, started leasing the Red Rooster in 1973, and owned it from 1984 to 2003. Over the years, their family spent a lot of time there.
“I ate here many a time,” Engelkes said. Sometimes, when his parents were working, “I slept here.”
At the sale, Engelkes had picked up one of the restaurant’s chairs, as well as some of the outdoor signs.
“I got the roosters from the roof,” Engelkes said.
Other people at the sale claimed the Red Rooster’s bright red booths, and the stools from the diner counter. One corner booth, along with dishes and other artifacts, was being preserved for historical purposes.
“We got the whole booth,” said Jon Wendorff, of Tracy’s Wheels Across the Prairie Museum. The booth seats, table and dishes were being donated to the museum by the Tracy Development Corporation.
The Red Rooster building also had some surprises for the people organizing the liquidation sale, Fultz said. Three large floor tiles, each with a colorful picture of a rooster, were pulled up from underneath the restaurant’s carpet. Fultz said it looked like whoever installed the carpet had flipped over the tiles first, so the carpet glue wouldn’t ruin the design.
One of the tiles was up for silent auction on Saturday, and the other two will be auctioned off in the future, Tracy Development Corporation members said.