Landmark sign at first Shakey's comes down

Feb. 3, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The sign marking the first-ever Shakey's Pizza parlor was removed from the legendary site in Sacramento on June 20.

The company was founded there by Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson in 1954.

James Henley of the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center told The Sacramento Bee the sign will be restored for display in its museum in November.

The original Shakey's operated there until a 1996 fire. It reopened last year as the East End Bar & Grill.

The new owners wanted to keep the Shakey's sign as a landmark, and then place their own sign on the building. However, Sacramento's building department regulations say pole-anchored signs on the same property must be at least 100 yards apart.

The historic sign's removal is ironic in light of the chain's often tumultuous journey from its height of about 450 U.S. stores in the mid-1970s, to just 61 now.

Singapore-based Inno-Pacific Holdings, Ltd. bought Shakey's in 1989, marking the beginning of a steady departure of franchisees from the chain's system. While Inno-Pacific guided the chain to open nearly 460 stores throughout the Far East, U.S. franchisees have accused it of neglecting stateside operations.

Since Inno-Pacific's takeover, its U.S. subsidiary, Shakey's Inc., has had more than a dozen presidents.

In May, Inno-Pacific's independent auditor reported on the Singapore Stock Exchange that the company is facing financial difficulty. In an attempt to raise operating capital, it has begun offering company shares for less than a penny each.

In early June, two California-based Shakey's franchisees sued Shakey's Inc., accusing it of fraud, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. The case ended about a week later in a sealed settlement.

In April, an official at Jacmar Corp., a 19-store Shakey's franchisee in Los Angeles, told PizzaMarketplace that his firm will not renew its franchise contracts when they expire in three years. Other franchisees fear Jacmar's departure could be a lethal blow to the chain, whose remaining stores are located mostly in California.

According to the Bee, Johnson launched Shakey's in 1954, selling small pizzas for 90 cents and glasses of beer for a dime. Johnson is remembered as a jazz lover and a risqué jokester, who put a sign in one restaurant reading, "Don't be disturbed if you find a fly in your pizza. The cook used to be a tailor."

In 1967, the pizza pioneer sold his share of what was then a 272-store company, to what later became the Great Western United Corp.

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