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Queens Chronicle

Wetson’s introduces fast food to New York City

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 pm

Wetson’s was founded in 1959 by Harold Norbitz (1921-2001) of Dix Hills, LI and Carl Wetanson (1912-1995) of Woodmere. It was headquartered in Valley Stream.

Observing the McDonald’s formula for restaurant success, Wetson’s planned to duplicate it in New York — an open market at the time with no fast food restaurants.

Carl’s older son, Herbert, pushed for franchises all over Queens and Long Island before McDonald’s could enter the market. Herbert Wetanson was a successful race car driver well-known on Long Island.

Wetson’s opened Queens franchises in Maspeth, Jamaica, Bellerose, Ozone Park, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria and Rego Park. The successful company offered 110,000 shares of stock to the public on March 27, 1969. But it only survived another six years.

McDonald’s, not to be left in the dust, had charged into New York like gangbusters. Then Nathan’s hotdogged its way in. After founder Nathan Handwerker died in 1974, a deal was struck with his heirs to change Nathan’s Famous locations into Nathan’s Restaurants, using Wetson’s buildings. The orange circles and mascots Wetty and Sonny were no more to be seen in Queens.

Today Herb Wetanson is 74 years old, still going strong as the owner of Dallas BBQ and Tony DiNapoli restaurants.

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