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Sambo's / Pizza Inn, 7451 Two Notch Road: 1990s   45 comments

Posted at 1:03 am in closing

I always considered Pizza Inn kind of a down-market cousin to Pizza Hut, at least in the beginning. Given my declining respect for Pizza Hut, I might reverse that opinion now -- Pizza Inn never tried to serve me fountain ice tea rather than fresh brewed. At any rate, while it may not have been my first choice, I never had a problem going to Pizza Inn, and I recall going to this one on Two Notch (now a Honey Baked Ham store) several times.

The most memorable time was the night my sister and I had dinner with one of my cousins and her husband. We had been seated with no incident, and had negotiated amongst ourselves a suitable mix of toppings for a large pan pizza. For whatever reason, when the server finally came, my cousin's husband placed our order:

"We'd like a large pan pizza with pepperoni, onions, bell-peppers and mushrooms", he said.

"It's not ready yet", the sever said.

There was a full stop while we all kind of looked at each other.

"Um, yes, we know, um, we'd like a large pan pizza with pepperoni, onions, bell-peppers and mushrooms", he tried again.

"It's not ready yet", the server said.

Another full stop.

"No, no, we're not asking about an order, we just got here, this is our order. We'd like a large --"

"It's not ready yet"

Final full stop.

"Ok, we understand that it's not ready. If we order it, will we get it?

At this point things kind of dissolved in mutual incomprehension and finally a manager had to come over and sort things out. As well as I can remember it, what the server had been trying to get across in a completely unhelpful and inarticulate way (and he was a native English speaker!) was that the crusts for large pan pizzas had not yet risen to the point of being cookable. We got two mediums and all was well despite a suspicion that Allen Funt must be around the corner somewhere.

UPDATE 23 Aug 2009: OK, in the comments this place has been identified as having originally been a Sambo's, and I was able to verify that today in old phonebooks at the RCPL. 7451 Two Notch first shows up as a Sambo's in 1978, and is listed for the last time in the 1981 phonebook. Pizza Inn at this location shows up first in the 1983 phonebook. Given that phonebooks only come out once a year, and require a good bit of advance notice, the building was probably not vacant long, despite not being listed as either store in the 1982 phonebook.

I don't know what finally happened to the Sambo's chain, but at one time they got a good bit of bad publicity by being associated with the Little Black Sambo story. As I recall, their response was that one of the chain's owners was "Sam" something and the other was "Beau" something and thus the name. That's plausible, but once having thought of a name, they did go on to associate it with the story by having a little Indian kid and a tiger in their logo (which I forgot to scan), and of course the story was set in India to begin with, and "Sambo" was actually a hero, having run the tiger into butter somehow (I'm a bit vague on the details now), but nonetheless in the US the story had gotten racist associations over the years, and if you're in business it's better to cut your losses and change your name than fight that kind of battle.

Written by ted on September 12th, 2008

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