Can we all agree we need Shakey's back?
It was not just a pizza place. It was a destination for generations growing up in Fargo-Moorhead. But 25 years ago this month, Fargo-Moorhead lost its last Shakey's Pizza Parlor. Why did so many Shakey's across the U.S. close and what do we need to do to get it back?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Other stories by Tracy Briggs:
- The year Fargo decided to 'hang' Moorhead pranksters for stealing the town Christmas tree
- 1968 was tumultuous year, here's how a trip to the moon and a little 'Sock it to me' got us through the holidays
- 'Everyone scattered when the whistle would blow': Residents embrace nostalgia of small town's most notable sound
If you have an idea for a history story, email Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.