RANCHO SANTA FE — Taco titan Glen W. Bell, founder of the fast food empire Taco Bell, passed away in his Rancho Santa Fe home on Jan. 16. Bell was 86 years old.
In his 1999 biography “Taco Titan,” Bell was quoted as saying, “We changed the eating habits of an entire nation.” So true. In the 1950s, at a time when fast food was emerging as a cultural phenomenon and hamburgers were the rage, Bell introduced the hard shell taco to a mass market and Americans fell in love. Bell grew from one small drive-in in San Bernadino to an empire that was eventually purchased by PepsiCo in 1978 for $125 million. Locally, Bell also owned Bell Gardens, a model produce farm, which provided pumpkins at Halloween time along with other produce. School children were encouraged to attend the farm and demonstrations were given in how to grow crops. The highlight, however, was a miniature train station that Bell built, providing children with a ride around the farm. Bell hoped to turn the farm’s success into a theme park much like Knott’s Berry Farm, but it never happened.
Bell is survived by his wife Martha, a daughter, two sons, and four grandchildren.