Ded City’s Harry Blaledge took the flight back to Tampa on Tuesday night feeling energized and appreciated, but most of all, full.
Over the course of two days at the White Castle headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, he ate free bacon and egg sandwiches on patties, French fries dipped in oil by an experimental robot called Flippy, and Castle Bites, which are tiny, ready-made pockets filled with burger meat.
The fast-food chain flew Blackledge and his wife, April, there for his induction into the Crackers’ Hall of Fame.
In the company cafeteria, which he described as “crazy” and “crazy,” Blaledge knew it would make you slide any The method, including the “double bottom bun” so dear to him, using two cuts of beef, swapping the top bun for a second bottom bun to soak up the “goodness from the grill, allowing for more flavour”.
Blackledge, 53, even ate two items on the prototype menu that he wasn’t at liberty to describe.
He was celebrated, along with 2020 inductee Adam Richman of “Man v. Food” fame, who was originally unable to attend the ceremony in person due to the pandemic, as well as a handful of other new recruits. Blackledge gave an acceptance speech.
silly? Perhaps, but Blackledge’s extrapolation fades more smoothly in an age when people feel more comfortable loving unabashedly or at least seriously examining Legacy brands, to the point where they are now fodder for high-end art (see: Ben Affleck’s movie “Air,” McDonald’s biopic “The Founder”), or being brands themselves (see: social media influencers).
Anyway, Blackledge’s story isn’t about the importance of getting you into the Hall of Fame which is obviously a very clever part of PR. It’s about grit, cravings, and hope—the hope that the little guy, an insurance appraiser from Florida, might somehow attract a regional fast-food giant. Fans of In-N-Out, Bojangles, Cook Out, Whataburger, Taco Time and Cafe Rio, planted there Hopes.
It started, like many fast-food habits, with Blaledge’s parents taking him to White Castle when he was a baby. He fell in love, but in 1985 the family moved from Indianapolis, the land of White Castle, to Tampa, the land of Crystal. (Crystal sliders, he said, diplomatically, aren’t just for him.)
complained. On visits to Indiana, the first stop, straight from the airport, is White Castle. He said that sometimes he ate sliders at Thanksgiving while the rest of the family ate home-cooked meals. On subsequent vacations with his wife and daughters, he would study the map and take six hour detours to hit the nearby White Castle.
He wrote letters to White Castle executives via postal mail, which eventually became email, which eventually became social media tags and direct messages, asking them to open in Florida. He got it by eating frozen White Castle sliders, and steaming them instead of microwaving them like a box.
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In 2010, he created a Facebook page called Bring White Castle to Florida, which has slowly but surely grown to thousands of followers. Have you noticed White Castle? He would sometimes get a vague response like, “You never know.”
When the call came inviting him to Orlando to start building his first location in White Castle, Florida, he thought it was just a nice gesture. Then, at the ceremony, an executive said, “We have one person to thank for having White Castle in Florida.” It was Blackledge.
It cut the ribbon at its grand opening in 2021, where hundreds waited in line for hours to get sliders.
Back home in Dade City, he’ll hang the painting, in appreciation of your “uncompromising dedication,” on a wall in a room with his other belongings at White Castle.
And he’ll focus on other projects: “We really need one in Tampa.”
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