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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 15, 2010

Shakey's returns to Isles after 30 years

by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

There won't be live banjo players, but Shakey's Pizza is returning to Hawai'i after a 30-year absence.

The first of three planned Shakey's restaurants is slated to open Feb. 24 at Waipahu Town Center, re-establishing a local presence for the California-based chain once known for its live banjo music and English pub atmosphere.

Cindy Staats, marketing director for the company, said local franchisee Brad Vandeman is committed to opening three Shakey's in the state.

"We're excited to be in the Islands," she said. "It's been gosh 30 years since Shakey's has been in the Islands, but people still have fond memories."

Shakey's got its name from Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson, who while serving in the Pacific during World War II caught malaria that gave him the shakes. Johnson in 1954 converted a closed Sacramento grocery store into a pub that also served pizza, establishing Shakey's Pizza Parlor & Ye Public House.

Johnson, a talented banjo player later inducted into the Banjo Hall of Fame, also featured banjo players and a variety of ragtime musicians at Shakey's. Food-wise, Shakey's featured thin-crust pizza, crispy fried chicken and "Mojo" potato fries.

The first Shakey's in Hawai'i was established in 1964 by Dallas Burton in Waimalu. The establishment had the English pub feel and a banjo team, and was expanded by Burton to locations in Kāne'ohe, Waipahu and Honolulu on Rycroft Street.

Burton sold the franchise in 1978 to another operator who had more expansion plans. But the new owners, Jack Leibert and David Dawes of Pizza of Hawaii Inc., shut down the business about two years later and were sued by Shakey's for breach of contract. Pizza of Hawaii filed bankruptcy in 1980.

Pizza of Hawaii in 1983 converted three former Shakey's locations to Round Table Pizza restaurants after acquiring that franchise.

The return of Shakey's to Hawai'i is part of a resurgence effort for the pizza parlor chain, which at one time had close to 500 locations, but went into decline under a variety of previous corporate owners that angered many franchisees.

Today, present owner Jacmar Cos. has 59 largely franchised Shakey's restaurants through subsidiary Shakey's USA Inc. The Waipahu restaurant will be No. 60.