The writing was on a white paper hat.
The message? Business is bankrupt; please help with a tip.
On Jan. 22, the cooks at the two locally owned Classics Drive-Thru Hamburgers hung up their blue aprons and spatulas for the last time. They were proud that they had provided something unique in the world of fast food -- 100 percent U.S. beef, guaranteed free of antibiotics and hormones. But they couldn't hang on.
"A lot of people who came here didn't want to eat there," said Sherri Dodd, the manager of the Classics at 4825 N. Academy Blvd., pointing through the window, to the McDonald's next door.
Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, which provided beef to the restaurants, was sorry to hear the news of their demise.
"Classics was a company that was trying to do things right," he said. "How do you compete with a McDonald's right next door?"
Classics, with a second location at 1702 S. Nevada Ave., operated in the city for 12 years. Owner Don Gordon declined to detail what led to financial problems at his restaurants, but made a plea for someone to step up to revive them.
"It is my hope that Classics would be taken over and continue to expand," he said. "If the bank cannot find a buyer of the business, they will auction off the properties."
Flipping burgers at Classics wasn't a high-paying job. Employees earned about $7.50 for each searing hour.
Still, Dodd's eyes welled up as she talked about the outcome, as well as her own circumstance as a recently appointed manager and provider for her family.
"I'm going to miss this," she said, wistfully examining the dining room and its red-and-blue plastic cowboy hats and pictures of vintage cars and motorcycles.
"It's a tough business to compete in naturally," said Andy Gipe, president of the Pikes Peak Independent Business Alliance, which promotes locally owned businesses. "I thought they were doing well."