The Old Spaghetti Factory celebrating 50 years in Portland

Sally Dussin, founder of The Old Spaghetti Factory, greets diners. The restaurant is celebrating 50 years in Portland. (KATU Photo)

The Old Spaghetti Factory is celebrating 50 years in Portland.

The woman behind it all is founder Sally Dussin. She and her late husband, Gus, started the restaurant 50 years ago.

It was first located downtown and eventually moved to the riverfront off Macadam.

You can’t miss the building, with its unique, ornate interior, the stained glass, chandeliers and the old-time street car.

At 90 years old, Sally is full of life and still works.

There are now 44 restaurants across America and in Japan.

It was Gus all those years ago who wanted a place that served a specific food that catered to families at a good price. So, The Old Spaghetti Factory was born.

When it all started, Sally never thought the restaurants would be as successful as they have.

“We thought, in a way, we were taking a big chance,” she said in a recent interview. “Gus thought so, because everyone who was in the restaurant business in downtown Portland -- when they heard the idea -- they said, ‘What are you doing? You can’t have a restaurant with just spaghetti.’”

Apparently, you can.

Fun, food and a good place to work, too. There are 4,500 employees and some of the company vice presidents started out washing dishes.

For Sally, the passion is evident in her eyes even 50 years later.

“The best part to me is to come in and hear the laughter -- the fun, seeing the children in the highchairs, running around -- just being able to communicate with people,” she said.

She still spends her time managing the restaurant designs, including all those antiques, some brought in from Europe. She calls it her labor of love, and she clearly loves the labor.

“The great secret of life is loving people, loving the things you do,” she said. “I think there’s such gratification with doing something you truly love.”

Sally says she’ll keep working as long as she can. Her son now runs the company.

When she has time for reflection, the good times greatly outweigh the bad.

“There’s a certain feeling that we must’ve done something right,” she said.

But after 50 years, does she still like spaghetti?”

“I still love spaghetti,” she said. “Every once in a while, I have to have my spaghetti fix!”

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