Our Northwest

Anderson built empire wrangling cattle and customers

Monday, June 13, 2016by  Jon Osterberg

Silverwood Ranch signAnother Northwest icon has left us, a man who once described himself as "the Colonel Sanders of steakhouse ads."

Stuart Anderson, founder of the Black Angus restaurants that bore his name, died June 6 at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home at age 93. At one time the Tacoma-born, Seattle-raised businessman had a chain of 118 steakhouses across the country.

He also owned a 2,400-acre cattle ranch that most people assumed provided the meat for Anderson's steakhouses.

Our family ate at the original Black Angus restaurant, on Elliott Avenue in Seattle across the street from Ivar's Captain's Table, not long after it opened in 1964. News stories say the one-price dinners – steak, baked potato, salad – originally cost $2.95. I remember ads touted those meals for years at just $3.95.

Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Restaurant signThrough the late 1960s and into the mid-1980s, Black Angus restaurants opened all over the Northwest and across the country. I recall eating at locations in downtown Bellevue, Crossroads, Yakima, Pasco, and my favorite, overlooking Spokane Falls near the Expo '74 grounds in Spokane.

But most of all, I remember countless trips passing the large wooden sign marking Anderson's Black Angus Cattle Company ranch alongside I-90 near Thorp. More than once, Central Washington University pranksters altered that sign after dark. At daylight motorists would find the "g" removed from "Black Angus" to spell ... well, you get the picture.

Today, Anderson's sprawling spread – most of which he sold in 1987 – is called Springwood Ranch, a popular site for weddings and receptions. A Springwood Ranch sign (top) marks the site of the old Black Angus marker.

Stuart Anderson logoWhen Anderson owned the ranch, many thought the black angus cattle they saw grazing there ended up on his sizzling steakhouse plates. In reality that turned out to be too great a challenge, he told former Puget Sound Business Journal publisher Mike Flynn.

“We got the meat from Australia, which had to be tamed a bit when it got here," Anderson said. Read Flynn's 2014 Desert Sun article.

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