POTSDAM -- The “It’s-a-Dilly” drive-in restaurant chain got its start in Potsdam in 1956 when the creator of the “It’s-a-Dilly” sauce, Charles Weinstein, first created the recipe.
Weinstein began producing the sauce in a two-quart pan in his kitchen, before demand for the sauce increased rapidly, according to Fred Rollins at the Potsdam Public Museum.
In 1958, Weinstein opened the “Cactus Room” and a manufacturing plant on Outer Pierrepont Avenue, and was joined by his son Elliott.
Many Potsdam residents may remember the first “Its-a-Dilly” restaurant, which opened in May 1961 and existed for years near the corner of Pine and Maple Streets.
It’s-a-Dilly Enterprises, Inc. was established in late 1963. An initial public stock offering of 30,000 shares, valued at $5 apiece, was offered. In the early days of the company, there were three other “wagons,” in Utica, and Rutland and Burlington, Vt.
According to a December 1963 article in the Potsdam Courier Freeman, inquiries on new franchises came from as far away as California, Texas, Mississippi and Canada.
The sauce was trademarked by the United States Trademark Office March 2, 1961. The trademark expired March 17, 1984.
To share memories of eating at the It’s-a-Dilly restaurant, or pictures of the Cactus Room or the Dilly Wagon, or any knowledge about the sauce recipe, contact the Potsdam Public Museum at 265-6910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is more on the Dilly wagon in an article by Jan Whitaker at http://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2011/08/18/it-was-a-dilly/.