Pause, for a moment, to say goodbye today to Bill Waugh, who died Tuesday in a Dallas hospice at the age of 79.
It is unlikely you know his name. Abilene proudly claims him as a native son, though he was born in Oklahoma and raised in Colorado, which makes sense: He graduated from Abilene Christian University with a fine arts degree in 1959, and opened his first business on S. First Street in Abilene in 1967 — a restaurant called Taco Bueno. Yes, thatTaco Bueno. He and his brother Tom had been dry-cleaners before that. Forever after, Bill was a restaurateur.
Per the Abilene Reporter-News today, in ’67 he moved back to Norman to start what became another chain, Casa Bonita. In 1972 he turned an Abilene chicken eatery into a pizza joint, which subsequently became known as Crystal’s Pizza and Spaghetti — yes, that Crystal’s Pizza and Spaghetti. For those of us who grew up in Dallas, the location near Forest and Inwood was The Greatest Place on Earth — the arcade that served as much pizza as you could stomach. Birthday parties not held at Crystal’s in the 1970s and early ’80s were considered inessential, failed.
But Waugh was not finished opening new restaurants. In 1985 he opened the first Burger Street in Lewisville, selling slim-patty burgers for 99 cents. The burgers eventually got bigger; so too the chain.
Don Williams, retired chairman and CEO of Trammell Crow Co., met Waugh through mutual friends at Prestoncrest Church of Christ and called him a “genius” Thursday.
“He was both a businessman and an artist, and that artistic training translated into great attention to detail,” says Williams. “He was a genuine entrepreneur — but an entrepreneur with taste, as you know from Crystal’s. And he was a man of faith who sought to encourage other people. He wasn’t a proselytizer. He tried to encourage other people and help them with their careers. A pretty remarkable combination of skills and passions.”
And he created Crystal’s.
There will be a memorial service Saturday at 10 a.m. at Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Home at 7405 W. Northwest Highway, followed by a burial at Hillcrest Memorial Park.