When Did Shakey’s Open in Nashua?

Everyone loved Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Nashua. Even before the Pheasant Lane Mall opened in 1986, that stretch of DW Highway just over the Massachusetts state line held wonder for Gen X kids and their families. Those two miles of then-two-lane road boasted:

South Nashua’s DW Highway was the place everyone wanted to go during the 1970s and 1980s.

Shakey’s: Gen X Childhood Gold

Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and Ye Public House opened a long time ago. When the Shakey’s in Nashua opened, help wanted ads still ran in the Nashua Telegraph under columns labeled “Male Help Wanted” and “Female Help Wanted.” Nashua’s New England Automotive Village still sold America’s great muscle cars–new–just down the road. The Tyngsboro Drive-in promised three all-color shows most nights over the state line in Massachusetts.

Shakey’s Help Wanted Ad, 1967

Shakey’s, Inc. quietly bought the land on the northbound side of DW Highway in December 1967 and filed for the building permit just a week later. Frank Sullivan opened Shakey’s in July 1968. Mr. Sullivan came with lots of experience and education. He was a Harvard MBA whose career included time at both Raytheon and Sylvania.

When the Shakey’s in Nashua opened that July, the ads promised a “New Year’s Eve party any time of year.” In those first years, people knew Shakey’s for its pizza. “Twenty-one kinds of pizza,” the ads boasted. Read the fine print and you’d see innovations like smoked oysters as a topping. Variety, indeed.

Shakey’s made its name in Nashua with an English pub sort of atmosphere. A fireplace, dark wood everywhere, and little red lamps–patrons sat at long tables to encourage a sense of community among strangers.

1978: The Remodeling of Shakey’s

Eleven years after opening on Nashua’s DW Highway, Shakey’s expanded and remodeled. They added stained glass windows, tiffany lamps, and took their turn-of-the-(20th)-century atmosphere to new levels.

Even with that time trip to the early 1900s, you could still eat like 1980 though. Around this time, Shakey’s added its fried chicken, fried potato slices, salad, spaghetti, and sandwiches too. (No word on whether those smoked oyster pizzas survived into the Reagan years, though.)

Remember that buffet?

Shakey’s Buffet – mid-1980s

Patrons who explored the dark depths of Shakey’s cave-like dining room got their just rewards. If you ventured far enough away from the piano and the TV rolling out reruns of Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges, and the Little Rascals, you found the arcade games.

For a quarter, you could play 1980s greats like Elevator Action, Spy Hunter, Outrun, and Grand Prix. While you played your Shakey’s-issued kazoo, you could also try your mechanical hand at the claw machine.

The Mall Didn’t Kill Shakey’s

Shakey’s lived through watching the Pheasant Lane Mall rise up in the huge field behind its parking lot. The Nashua Shakey’s closed in the late 1980s as part of a wave of Shakey’s closures nationwide.

Today, Nashua’s Pizzeria Uno location sits at its site.

Even though Shakey’s is no more in New England, the chain still exists in California and Washington State.

Maybe you can still eat those fried potatoes while holding a man-shaped balloon with cardboard feet, after all.

It looks like the employees still wear those straw hats too.

6 thoughts on “When Did Shakey’s Open in Nashua?

    1. Best birthday parties ever. I loved the Nashua NH one. I have pictures such a great time. Thanks for the memories.

  1. My grandparents moved to Nashua in 1968. My parents took us there shortly afterwards, that summer. I think we went maybe twenty times. I had my foam “straw hat” from Shakeys for many years though I no longer have it. Shakey’s introduced me to ragtime piano music. I was 8 years old at the time. We lived in Massachusetts south of Boston so only went when we visited my grandparents.

  2. I was amazed to find that Shakey’s is now one of the largest chain restaurants in the Philippines. Totally updated, bright and open instead of dark, but still with tons of games.

    There are also some Shakey’s in Mexico City but the ones I saw were pretty small, more focused on the food.

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