WEST FARGO – Back in the 1950s, customers flocked to Jumbo’s Drive In at Mandan, N.D., to dine on sloppy Joes.
Today, they don’t have to go quite so far to get that same sloppy goodness.
John and Patty Lindquist of West Fargo have launched Jumbo’s Sloppy Joe Sauce, replicating the popular sandwich filling that her parents, Jim and Leona Hammes, concocted decades ago.
Add a pound of browned hamburger to a 14-ounce jar of their sauce, slap it on a bun and you have a Jumbo’s sloppy Joe.
Jim “Jumbo” Hammes introduced the sandwiches at his Bismarck-Mandan Dairy Queens in 1956 and the specialty sauce soon earned a reputation of its own.
Hammes graduated from the University of North Dakota with a business degree in 1947 after serving with the U.S. Army Air Corps at Iwo Jima and Saipan during World War II. He started a 48-year career with Dairy Queen in 1952 by purchasing the Dairy Queen at Detroit Lakes, Minn., and another at Edmonton, Alberta, in 1954.
Two years later, he and Leona came up with their sloppy Joe recipe and began selling the sandwiches at the Mandan DQ. They later opened a separate drive-in just down the street.
“It was named Jumbo’s,” said daughter Patty. “That was his nickname even though he was a tiny little man, all of 5-foot-8, if even that. He was definitely an entrepreneur.”
Customers could get three Jumbo’s sloppy Joes for a dollar, she said.
“They were quite a hit. It was the hangout and place to work. They even had carhops,” Patty Lindquist said.
People would order the made-from-scratch sandwiches for graduations, confirmations, baptisms and other events.
“You name it, I was making sloppy Joes,” said Patty, who started working for her parents at age 14.
The Hammeses sold the Mandan Dairy Queen in 2000 and converted Jumbo’s to the Trail West restaurant. Jim Hammes died in 2005.
Everywhere John and Patty Lindquist went, people would still ask about Jumbo’s sloppy Joe recipe. Eventually, they asked each other: “Why not just make it?”
This fall the Lindquists contracted with Full Service Foods at Hillsboro, N.D., to package jars of Jumbo’s Sloppy Joe Sauce.
First, family members taste-tested batches of sloppy Joe mix until the original Jumbo’s flavor was resurrected.
“The whole family agreed that was it,” Patty said.
Full Service Foods suggested they test the market with one or two product runs and see how it goes.
John and Patty first pitched Jumbo’s Sloppy Joe Sauce at the Pride of Dakota Show at Grand Forks on Oct. 7.
“It beat our expectations,” said John. “We really blew it out of the water.”
They sold 828 jars at the Fargo Pride of Dakota show in November. More than 1,000 jars were purchased at the Bismarck Pride show Dec. 5-7, John said.
Visitors to their booth would reminisce about eating or working at Jumbo’s Drive In, Patty said.
“It’s fun to see the twinkle in their eyes when they come back and talk about eating there,” said John.
The company just completed its seventh production run.
“Right now we’re in 19 stores,” said John. “Hopefully it will be nationwide.”