Whatever Happened To Sambo’s Restaurants?
Want a good hot beef sandwich for a buck eighty nine?
Well, if it's 1979 and you happen across a Sambo's, pull on in and enjoy! And by the way, there was a very good chance there was a Sambo's near you. Kind of like Piggly Wiggly and Red Owl grocery stores, every town seemed to have a Sambo's.
I remember moving to Aberdeen in 1977 and yep, there it was, Sambo's, right on the corner of something and something (OK, I can't remember the streets, but suffice to say it was on the highway in town, across from the Super 8).
By 1979, Sambo's had over 1,100 outlets in 47 states, including two in Sioux Falls. They were, in other words, everywhere! Started back in 1957 by Sam Battistone, Sr. and Newell Bohnett, yes it's true the name was taken from their two names.
And all was well, and the chain grew and grew and grew. And then, come along there in the late 1970's, controversy struck. Protests and lawsuits that viewed the term Sambo as pejorative towards African Americans sprung up in various communities around the country. Several stores were renamed, some 'The Jolly Tiger', others 'Season's Friendly Eating'. There were other pressures as well, and by 1981 the company filed for bankruptcy.
And they were all gone.
The last Sambo's (which, by the way, was the first Sambo's) in Santa Barbara, California changed it's name in 2020. It's now called Chad's.
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