Business Q&A with Dorothy Beasley of Starlite Drive-In
About Dorothy Beasley and Starlite Drive-In:
Name & Title: Dorothy Beasley, owner
Family: Daughter, Peggy
Business started: 1953
What they do: Richard and Dorothy Beasley opened Starlite Drive-In with the intention of staying in Christiansburg around 10 years. More than 50 years later, the open-air theater is still thriving, and the Beasleys are still running the show.
Richard Beasley died in July 2009 at the age of 86, but Dorothy Beasley and her daughter, Peggy Beasley, who has managed the theater since 1985, decided the show must go on the popular summer venue.
Though the official ownership has long since been turned over to Peggy Beasley, it is Dorothy Beasley whom the daughter still refers to as the “head honcho.”
Hours and location: Starlite Drive-in is located at 275 Starlite Drive in Christiansburg. It’s open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 7 p.m., the first show begins at dusk and the second follows immediately after.
Q: How did you get into this business?
A: He [Richard] come from Stuart, Va. … He come up this way, him and his brother, and they decided they were going to build an indoor theater. They had an indoor theater, the Glen Theater in Christiansburg, but we wasn’t married then.
In ’53, we was married. He had done sold the Glen to a group in Floyd. He decided he wanted to not work all the time. He said we’ll just build us a drive-in, and I said “surely not.” He went to several different places around, trying to find what he was looking for. He couldn’t find anything, and he came down here and looked at this and said, “Well, I don’t know, it looks alright to me.” Nothing but a field. Wasn’t nothing on it. Nothing.
Anyway, he bought it … and we built it. And my daddy was a farmer and carpenter and all that. He come down here with his horses and built the ramps that you see out there now. …That was something to see.
Q: What is your favorite part of running Starlite Drive-In?
A: I like it because we did have some time off. And when we had time off, we went to Florida for the winter… close to Daytona. Daddy built a house there.
Q: What do you like most about the days you have shows?
A: I guess being in the snack bar and seeing all the people and talking, all that good stuff…And all that talk about the hot dogs. They love the hot dogs.”
Q: Is there a secret to the hot dogs?
A: The chili, and we don’t tell the recipe to nobody.
Q: What has been the key to Starlite’s success?
A: Friendliness, I guess. And trying to do what people would like to see. We try to keep it a family [atmosphere]. I don’t like R-rated movies, but we have to show some of them now because they make so many of them anymore. We used to have film salesmen come down from New York and Washington and places. And they’d get a big kick out of me not wanting to play Rs. They’d come in and tease me about it. And say, “Well that’s alright, if you don’t have a good decent picture, I won’t play it.”
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: That we’re still around. So many of them [other drive-ins] has closed up, the smaller ones. I’m glad that we’re still going and still operating.
Q: Why has Starlite outlasted other drive-ins?
A: Some people think it’s because of our friendliness and that we try to do what is best. And like I say, I like a family atmosphere.
Richard was an easy-going person, but he was a good businessman. He was a joker. He loved to tell jokes. You’d have got a kick out of him.
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Thunder Road.” I like Thunder Road.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643