From a bread man to a successful businessman, through a newspaper ad.
That is the path Bob Merritt took.
Merritt's company -- Las Cruces-based Merritt Group -- owns all five Sonic Drive-In restaurants in Las Cruces and 69 total in the state. New Mexico has a total of 73 Sonics, so Merritt Group owns all but four. This week, the company celebrates its 40th anniversary in Las Cruces. This year is also the 60th anniversary of the opening of what would eventually become the first ever Sonic.
"I grew up in Roswell and worked as a bread man," Merritt told the Sun-News via email. "My company transferred me to Las Cruces. In 1973, I became a managing partner with Sonic."
Sonic reports that it is the largest chain of drive-in restaurants in America. In 1953, Troy Smith in Shawnee, Okla., opened up the Top Hat Drive-in and the name was changed to Sonic in 1959. Sonic now has more than 3,200 locations.
Merritt said that, here in Las Cruces, he has approximately 200 employees at any given time. He said that his business is very important to him. When asked if he had any hobbies, he said: "Sonic is my hobby."
Merritt said he does have favorite items on his menu.
"Footlong coneys (hot dogs) and ice cream," he said.
His favorite part of the job?
"Being involved with people," Merritt said.
His least favorite part?
"Seeing people not fulfill their potential," he said.
Merritt and his wife, Betty, have made others happy as well and they, in turn, are happy for the couple's success.
"(I) love sonic. Congrats Bobby," Manda Riordan-Alvarez wrote on the Sun-News Facebook page.
"Folks like Bobby and (Betty) are what make Sonic great," Becky Rickard said. "They celebrate 40 years of building one of the best brands in our country. Congrats to the Merritt Group, here's to many more."
"I worked for Sonic years ago," said Vangie Yanez, a former employee who said her favorite location is the Sonic on Valley Drive. "Congrats Bob."
"I worked in their accounting office for several years," Lisa Schlueter Hodges said. "Great place to work. Congrats Bob on this milestone."
Merritt said that the most recent location of his to open in Las Cruces was at 3471 Foothills Road.
"However, the Valley Sonic was rebuilt in 2005 and the North Main Sonic was relocated in 2011," he said.
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