FARGO - As we start 2021, can those of us living in Fargo-Moorhead come up with a collective New Year’s Resolution? Something we can all agree on? How about: Find someone to bring Shakey’s Pizza back to town.

I stumbled upon this thought a couple of days ago. One of my favorite co-workers, Bob Lind, (whom I usually refer to as Bob “LifeGoals” Lind as I want to be him when I grow up) wrote a Neighbor’s column about favorite old pizza places. As you can imagine, a lot of great pizza joints were mentioned, including Sammy’s, Duane’s, The Pizza Shop, Pinky’s and Shakey’s. All mouthwatering choices, but today we'll talk about Shakey's.

At one point Shakey’s, which was founded in 1954 in Sacramento, California, by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson, had two locations in Fargo - one on South University Drive and the other right off Second Street North by the Civic Center.

Shakey's was founded in 1954 in Sacramento, California by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson. It was the first franchise pizza chain in the U.S. and still has locations on the west coast and internationally. Photo courtesy: Shakey's.com
Shakey's was founded in 1954 in Sacramento, California by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson. It was the first franchise pizza chain in the U.S. and still has locations on the west coast and internationally. Photo courtesy: Shakey's.com

But Bob’s column isn’t the only recent mention of Shakey’s. If you go to Facebook pages such as “Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota” and you put “Shakey’s” in the search bar, many memory-filled posts, with hundreds of comments, come up.

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One of many posts about Shakey's on the Facebook site, "Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota." This post with its 725 likes, 244 comments and nine shares lead you to believe people enjoyed their Shakey's pizza. Photo courtesy/Facebook
One of many posts about Shakey's on the Facebook site, "Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota." This post with its 725 likes, 244 comments and nine shares lead you to believe people enjoyed their Shakey's pizza. Photo courtesy/Facebook

People reminisce about watching the chefs make the pizza through a big glass window. A nearby sign read: “CAUTION! Shakey’s staff read lips.." Signs like that were hung all over the restaurant:

  • "Before you criticize our coffee, just remember that you'll be old and weak someday too!"
  • “FREE PIZZA to all people 80 and over accompanied by parents!"
  • “You’ll have fun at Shakey’s, pizza too.”

Others loved the old-timey atmosphere, including ragtime piano and banjo music and bathrooms labeled “Ye Olde Restrooms.”

People also raved about the pizza with the interesting sauce and the delicious mojo potatoes and icy cold beer. Others said they gained weight just looking at the Bunch ‘O Lunch buffet.

Shakey's had two locations in Fargo, one on South University where Pepper's Cafe is now and one off 2nd street north near the river. Photo courtesy: Shakey's.com
Shakey's had two locations in Fargo, one on South University where Pepper's Cafe is now and one off 2nd street north near the river. Photo courtesy: Shakey's.com

In 1984, Shakey’s on South University closed. The building is now home to Pepper’s Sports Cafe. The downtown Fargo Shakey’s closed in January 1996 following a fire. The owners decided to make repairs, but dropped the Shakey’s franchise and reopened as “The Valley’s Best Pizza and Chicken,” but that didn’t stay around long.

But our now Shakey’s-less community is in good company. Shakey’s have gone out of business all over America. At its peak in the 1970s, Shakeys had 400 franchisees throughout the United States. Now, according to the latest numbers, they are down to 51 locations only in Washington state and California and about 160 international locations.

Shakey's Pizza Parlor reached it's peak U.S. franchise numbers in the 1970's with 400 locations nationwide. The pizza chain, the nation's first, now has U.S. locations in California and Washington as well as internationally. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Shakey's Pizza Parlor reached it's peak U.S. franchise numbers in the 1970's with 400 locations nationwide. The pizza chain, the nation's first, now has U.S. locations in California and Washington as well as internationally. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

In an article on the site “Do Your Remember” entitled “Where Have All The Shakey’s Gone?” the author says popularity waned in the U.S. as the company expanded internationally.

“It exploded in the Philippines and they have over 100 active locations today,” wrote the author. According to the Shakey’s website, they also have locations in Mexico.

But if social media is any indication, people in Fargo-Moorhead want their Shakey’s back. For example, one informal Facebook poll asked people which of the following restaurants they’d like to see open again in Fargo-Moorhead: Shakey’s, Chi-Chi’s, Ponderosa or Sizzler?

On a recent Facebook poll about which restaurant should come back to Fargo-Moorhead, Shakey's received more votes than the other three restaurants combined. Photo courtesy/Facebook
On a recent Facebook poll about which restaurant should come back to Fargo-Moorhead, Shakey's received more votes than the other three restaurants combined. Photo courtesy/Facebook

Of the 51 comments given, Shakey’s received more than half the votes - more than the other three combined. (Hardly scientific data. Perhaps, it warrants more research over pizza and beer.)

Also on social media, check out all of the Fargo-Moorhead Shakey’s fans posting photos of themselves while visiting locations in California or Washington.

Fargoans Keith Ellingson and Patrick Kasper have their photo taken while visiting a Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Palm Springs, California. Photo courtesy/Patrick Kasper
Fargoans Keith Ellingson and Patrick Kasper have their photo taken while visiting a Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Palm Springs, California. Photo courtesy/Patrick Kasper

So fellow Fargo-Moorheadians, what do we need to do to get Shakey’s back? Obviously, our current situation, the economy coupled with the pandemic, is not helping us right now. But wouldn’t it be nice to imagine that once we can comfortably dine out again, we’d have Shakey’s waiting for us?

Do you want to see Shakey's Pizza Parlor re-open in Fargo?

Thank you for voting!

  • Absolutely!

    92%

  • I've never heard of it or eaten there, but sure!

    5%

  • No, I don't think we need another pizza place

    4%



Other stories by Tracy Briggs:

If you have an idea for a history story, email Tracy at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com.