Shakey's pizza returning to Minnesota

Shakeys stages a comeback and will reopen in Minnesota next summer.
Shakeys stages a comeback and will reopen in Minnesota next summer.

After nearly a decade-long absence, a pizza chain that once operated 16 locations in the state will return to Minnesota, with five new restaurants slated to open in the metro area.

The franchise was launched by Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson in Sacramento, California, in 1954, and its first Minnesota restaurant arrived in Columbia Heights in 1966. (BTW, apparently Johnson got his nickname as a result of experiencing nerve damage after a bout of malaria he suffered during World War II--who knew?) The family-friendly pizza and beer joint incorporated a vague ragtime music theme, with banjos, player pianos, etc.

Here's what you can expect in its new incarnation.

Shakey's is hoping to reposition itself as a nostalgic fave during its comeback, which is planned for next summer. The decor at the new Minnesota restaurants will riff on Shakey's original look while also incorporating arcade games, big-screen TVs, and pop-culture memorabilia. The menu will offer both Shakey's original thin-crust pizza and fried chicken.

But I'm wondering if Shakey's hasn't been out of the local game so long that fond memories of the pizzeria have been erased from the collective memory? (I had to dig way back in the recesses to recall my last visit, as a teenager. I'd just gotten my braces on and my teeth were so sore I could only eat mashed potatoes.)

The Twin Cities pizza scene has changed dramatically since Shakey's went on hiatus. Namely, Neapolitan-style pies have boomed in popularity (Punch, Pizza Nea), coal-fired pizza has come on the scene (Black Sheep), and wood-fired 'za or pizza-like flatbreads are staples on all sorts of restaurant menus (Restaurant Max, Il Gatto, Faces, etc.). Will folks who remember Shakey's want to return to their childhood pizza, or have they found something better in the meantime? Will younger folks even care?

Feel free to share your Shakey's memories in the comments and speculate about how they'll be received in the local market. Also, can you name Shakey's most notable former employee? (If you're stumped, I'll add the answer later today.)

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