Susan "Sue" Owen '94 January 18, 2023 11:47 AM updated: January 19, 2023 11:16 AM
You might have heard that city ordinances restrict orange-and-white buildings in College Station, but that’s a myth – partly stemming from the prominent maroon stripe on Whataburger #78 on Dominik Drive, just off Texas Avenue.
The maroon stripe appeared in May 1996, after a January 1996 fire caused the restaurant to close and rebuild.
It was the first Whataburger in the U.S. to depart from the chain’s iconic colors.
Today, college colors or logos for 17 universities appear on Whataburger restaurants in nine states, such as the Texas State Bobcats emblem on a Whataburger in San Marcos.
And all six Whataburgers in Bryan-College Station have Aggie stripes or logos.
In 1996, Texas newspapers reported that the maroon was “a tribute to the restaurant’s majority of customers.”
Hugh Dobson ’82, one of several Aggie members of Whataburger’s founding family, recalled that it didn’t seem right to put up all orange and white, so the decision was made to add maroon, according to James Turcotte ’83, Whataburger executive vice president and chief development officer.
“Whataburger has a great many proud Aggies working here,” Turcotte said. “It's a great place to work!” He said the Dominik location was first built as one of Whataburger’s classic “A-frame”-shaped buildings (only 10 remain); that structure was replaced in the late 1970s, then rebuilt after the 1996 fire.
College Station city officials periodically contend with the rumors that city ordinances either ban orange or require maroon. (Neither is true.)
The city once had an approved color palette with “accent colors” permitted, but Whataburger’s color scheme was allowable even under that ordinance, which was relaxed in 2018. Today, building colors are unrestricted in most of the city.
Whataburger’s bright orange and white stripes have been attributed to founder Harmon Dobson’s background as a pilot: Orange and white are often used on airport structures, and Dobson wanted his stores to be highly visible, according to The Handbook of Texas. The orange hue is close to “international orange,” a shade used in the aerospace industry to make objects stand out.