Anchorage's Dick Sanchis, the proprietor of two beloved burger shops in town, has passed away this week.

The Arctic Roadrunner owner died Monday morning at the age of 79, according to company bookkeeper Beverly Smith. He had been battling cancer.

“We lost a good guy,” Smith said. “He was kind of like family for us; he was like a dad.”

Sanchis' ex-wife Anne said he had been sick for the past two years and had lost his eyesight. He spent his final days at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

"He was comfortable and passed away peacefully," Sanchis said. "He was in good hands."

Anne, who remained close friends with her ex-husband, said he used to spend lots of time at Arctic Roadrunner talking with customers.

"He loved his customers; he valued his customers," Sanchis said. "He loved and appreciated his employees."

Sanchis, who founded the family business with Anne in 1964, owned two shops in town: one on the Old Seward Highway near International Airport Road, and one on Arctic Boulevard near Northern Lights Boulevard.

Smith, who has worked for Arctic Roadrunner for 42 years, said the restaurants’ signs are different because Sanchis wanted the one on Arctic to be clearer about its cuisine.

“He kind of added ‘Local Burgerman’ so people would know what kind of business it was,” Smith recalled. “They actually switched it on the Old Seward sign, so ‘Local Burgerman’ was first; customers came in and said, ‘Are you under new ownership?’”

Both locations became Anchorage institutions for their burgers and shakes, their cash-only payment policies and their interiors festooned with customers’ photos and memorabilia. They also stood out for Sanchis’ message of inclusion, spelled out on billboards – as well as a pair of signs posted at the Arctic Roadrunner on Old Seward.

A sign espousing late Arctic Roadrunner Dick Sanchis' business policies, posted at the Old Seward Highway restaurant. (Credit: Courtesy Anne Sanchis)

“You can believe as you like, discuss your differences, but respect my beliefs as I respect yours,” Sanchis wrote on one of them. “Never should we stop being friends, nor should we harm one another for any reason…simply because we disagree.”

Word was still filtering out Tuesday to current and former employees of the restaurants, Smith said.

Sanchis leaves behind a son, Rici, as well as a daughter, Cara, who manages the Arctic Boulevard location. Anne Sanchis said nothing will change at Arctic Roadrunner, and that Cara is slated to take over as the restaurants' owner.

Earlier this year the founder of another iconic Anchorage restaurant, George Brown, died at the age of 96. The Lucky Wishbone, which Smith and his wife founded in 1955 on 5th Avenue, still serves fried chicken which became famous for being flown from the Lower 48 rather than being shipped frozen.

Scott Jensen contributed information to this story.

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