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1971 - A Look At The First Shoney's Location
By Heath Harrison
September 1, 2013


At its peak, the Shoney's restaurant chain was one of the most successful businesses to originate from Charleston.

The company began in 1947 when city businessman Alex Schoenbaum opened the Parkette drive-in next his father’s bowling alley on Kanawha Boulevard on Charleston’s West Side (across the street from where Drug Emporium now stands). After seeing a Big Boy statue on a Cincinnati restaurant, Schoenbaum became a franchisee and his company, now numbering five restaurants, became known as the Parkette Big Boy Shoppes in 1952.

The next year, Schoenbaum offered a Lincoln Continental as the prize for a contest to rename the restaurants, which began operating under the winning choice of Shoney’s in 1954.

The company expanded to become a billion-dollar business, with 1,800 restaurants in 35 states at its peak in the 1990s. In 1970, Shoney's went public on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1971, the company launched the Shoney’s Inn motel chain. Schoenbaum also helped to develop the Captain D’s restaurant chain, which operated under Shoney’s until it was sold off in 2004.

In order to expand into states that already had Big Boy franchises, the company ended its ties with the organization. Big Boy was dropped from the restaurant and replaced with the company’s own Shoney Bear mascot in 1984.

Schoenbaum became known for his philanthropy, with he and his wife Betty donating generously to both West Virginia and Florida. Their contributions include the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center and the Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium in Charleston.

He died on Dec. 6, 1996 at age 81, while in Florida (He split his years between West Virginia and his winter residence in Sarasota). Active to the end, despite his failing health, he had been seen in public just a week earlier, when he left the hospital for a day to accept a B'nai B'rith Great American Traditions Award.

Shoney’s suffered financial setbacks in the years following Schoenbaum’s death, including a 2000 bankruptcy. Lone Star Funds, a Texas-based investment group acquired Shoney’s in 2002. In 2007, the company having dwindled to just 282 restaurants was sold to Atlanta businessman David Davoudpour.

Davoudpour serves as CEO of the new company, Shoney's North America Corp., and has vowed to “revive an iconic American brand.”

A roadside museum now stands at the site of the original Shoney's.

This week's clip, courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives at the Culture Center, features two WCHS clips, dated to approximately 1971 (as estimated by archives historian Richard Fauss). The first is a return visit by Schoenbaum to the first Shoney's location on Kanawha Boulevard. The silent footage gives a rare view in color of the first restaurant and a glimpse of the surrounding West Side in the early 1970s. The second part (with a brief glitch near the beginning) features Schoenbaum and his family, as he discusses his planned philanthropic projects and desire to give back to the community.

Remember When: 1971 - A Look At The First Shoney's Location

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