Thurston County History: Remembering Shakey’s Pizza in Olympia


Opening in Olympia in 1964, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and Ye Public House was a family favorite. Known simply as Shakey’s Pizza or Shakey’s, this chain restaurant lives on in the happy memories of many locals even after its 1990 closure. 

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Pizza in Olympia

Pizza was brought by Italian immigrants to the United States and its Americanized version became very popular after World War II.

Shakey’s was not the first to serve pizza in Olympia. Some restaurants began adding it to their menu in the 1950s. The Spar, for example, promised fresh baked pizza of “all varieties” in 1956. Pizza parlor chains arrived with the new decade. In 1961 two pizza parlors opened, Luigi’s Pizza Parlor at 4043 Martin Way in Lacey and Pizza Pete at 208 Fourth Avenue East in downtown Olympia.

In the early 1960s, Shakey’s executives thought that Olympia looked like a promising market. Founded in Sacramento in 1954, “the only real, authentic, first, original, certified genuine, family pizza parlor in the world” was the first pizza chain in the United States. A.G. Holman Construction Company was contracted to build a new restaurant at 827 South Plum Street. The location anticipated the construction of the 1966 space-age style City Hall across the street.

Shakey’s Pizza Opens in Olympia

Shakey’s started business on Wednesday, August 5, 1964. A formal opening was held the following week. The first manager, Gerald Howard, had gotten his start with the company managing a Shakey’s location in Everett. Shakey’s, he told the Daily Olympian, offered its charm with a combination of Americanized Italian cuisine in an old English pub atmosphere complete with open beamed ceilings and stained-glass windows.

Its unique atmosphere brought people in. In one area of the restaurant they showed silent films, usually comedies like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. There were also sing-alongs, a honky tonk player piano and occasional live music. In 1964 and 1965, Mike and Eddie gave regular weekend piano and banjo concerts.

The restaurant offered 21, later 22, varieties of pizza with a “secret sauce.” It was, they claimed “pizza perfection.” A family restaurant, it became a place for sports teams to celebrate games and teenagers to hang out. Tuesdays – and later Wednesdays – were special family nights, with discounts. Birthday kids under 12 got a free small pizza, a birthday song and 3-foot tall Shakey’s ballons for everyone in their party.

print ad that says 'Shakey's serves, too
enjoy old time movies, Chaplin, Lauren and Hardy, etc
Open daily at 11 a.m.
Sundays at 12 noon
Across from city hall
827 S Plum Street - Olympia - 943-7575
Shakey’s Pizza, seen in this January 28, 1970 Daily Olympian ad, was located at 827 South Plum Street. A Westside location was added in 1972. Photo courtesy: Washington State Library

Expanding Shakey’s to Olympia’s Westside

Duer Smedley managed Shakey’s for a few years in the late 1960s before brothers Luke, Guy and Mike Moyer took over. In 1972, they opened Olympia Shakey’s No. 2 at 2020 Harrison Avenue West. Part of the new Westside Shopping Center, it was bigger than the original downtown location and had private banquet rooms but the same menu.

In 1974 the Plum Street location was remodeled with a new interior color scheme of orange, yellow and brown. In 1978 both downtown and Westside places were remodeled with hardwood floors, oval stained-glass windows, Tiffany-style lamps, a new skylight and raised seating in the main dining room.

Olympia’s twin Shakey’s locations also expanded the menu over the decades, adding sandwiches and a salad bar. They also offered “bunch of lunch,” an all-you-could eat buffet, with pizza, fried chicken, crispy mojo potatoes and salad. To-go orders were popular. In 1979 they introduced the “pizza keeper” container to keep pizza fresh and hot on the ride home. They did not offer home delivery.

My grandparents and mom gather for my uncle’s birthday at Shakey’s Pizza on Plum Street in December 1971. Photo credit: Karen Crooks

During this time, Shakey’s also gave back to the community. They sponsored the “Shakey’s All City Golf Tournament” in 1972 and 1973, serving pizza and beer to all players. In the 1970s and 1980s, the management offered a $5 off coupon for a family size pizza to winners at the Pet Parade. They sponsored contests at the parade for the “best imitation” of characters like “spacepersons,” robotrons, old-time movie stars and E.T.

The self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Pizza” continued serving up pizza even as the Moyer brothers’ plans to open a third Shakey’s location in Lacey in 1983 fizzled out. Shakey’s now faced increasing competition from other pizza chains. Furthermore, home delivery and frozen pizza was beginning to erode Shakey’s throne as Olympia’s favorite pizza spot.

My grandpa serves birthday pizza to his son, my uncle, at Shakey’s on Plum Street, December 1969. Photo credit: Karen Crooks

Shakey’s Pizza in Olympia Closes

In 1986, the Plum Street Shakey’s was torn down to create a parking lot for new office buildings. People mourned. Owner Mike Moyer found decades-old initials carved into some of the older tables. “There’s a lot of memories,” he told the Olympian, “(and thousands of pizzas) that go with that place.”

Westside Shakey’s closed in early 1990. That April, Dirty Dave’s opened a second location in the spot. In 2001, it became Apollo’s Pizza & Pasta. The storefront is now home to Seattle Children’s Bargain Boutique. The nearest Shakey’s location is now in Renton and the chain has simplified its name to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. Yet among Olympia old-timers, Shakey’s Pizza remains a fond memory, agreeing with Shakey’s old promise, “If you haven’t tried Shakey’s…You Haven’t Had Pizza!”

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