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Sugar Sugar

Last week me and Christopher (both natives of the Phoenix area) got to talking about the fondly remembered local businesses that we used to enjoy as kids. One of the first places that came up was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours. I used to love going the location in Tempe, which back in the ’70s was surrounded by nothing but dusty vacant lots. The decor was of the “lots of crazy crap on the walls” variety with a slightly Gay ’90s twist. I remember they also had one of those Love Grip machines. Usually my family would order a concoction called “The Zoo” so that the staff would bring it out with bells ringing and horns blowing. The Zoo came in a huge bowl with cool plastic animals perched on the many scoops of ice cream. I came across a tribute site to Farrell’s only to learn that it wasn’t a local establishment at all — more of a Southwest U.S. chain, in fact. Surprisingly, a few Farrell’s remain open for business.

By the way, the other places we talked about were Yellow Front (rustic shop to get jeans and camping equipment), UTotem (convenience stores), the Hostess Bakery Outlet my mom used to drive in from another town for, and Gemco (general purpose department store).

8 Thoughts on “Sugar Sugar

  1. I was on the other side of town, so the Farrell’s I spent most of my time at was the one at Metocenter, above the ice skating rink (and the weird TWA-airliner restaurant…) My friend Eric worked at the Yellow Front on 19th and Bell until the chain went out of business. UTotem! I’ve mentioned UTotem to people and they think I’m making it up, so thanks for backing me up here.

    There were a bunch of local (or regional) chains like that…TG&Y, Lucky supermarkets, Bayless, Revco…even Circle K used to be a pretty much Arizona phenomenon (though I think they started in Texas?) It’s strange, when I’m driving in LA once in a while I’ll pass a Circle K and it’s a really dissonant moment. I saw one in Seattle once and I thought I was hallucinating. Then again, when I lived in Seattle I may well have been.

    Monti’s steakhouses? Hobo Joe’s? Sambo’s? I could go on but I’ll spare you. :)

    Hope you’re doing well.

  2. Monkey David on August 8, 2007 at 12:38 am said:

    Wow…I forgot about U-Totem. That Farrell’s in Metrocenter (I think it showed up in a video you posted a while back of Metro) really brings back nostalgic pains. It’s sad to walk through Metro now…I miss the big green relaxation pit area too. Plus, it’s scary.

  3. Wish I could’ve gone to the Farrell’s in Metrocenter, David!

    Cait, your comment jogged some memories. We had a TG&Y near our house in Scottsdale, in the same Papago Plaza strip mall which housed a Pop Shoppe and a cool little toy store.

    Monti’s is still going strong, and still great. Remember Bonanza steak houses? Apparently those are barely still around, too, but not in the West. Sambo’s was a treat – especially the crushed plastic artwork with the cartoon Sambo and tiger lining the walls. There’s a restaurant here downtown which still has the original groovy ’60s lighting fixtures from when it was a Sambo’s.

  4. There used to be a Farrells in the Downey (CA) shopping mall – went to a few birthday parties there as a kid, including my own once – yeah, The Zoo was the way to go and the straw-hatted staff would sing happy birthday

    In high school, after football games us lonely band geeks would drive over to Farrells and get ice cream and suck on jaw breakers until the football jocks kicked us out of our booths.

    I think there’s still one Farrells way out in the San Fernando Valley, the one in Downey eventually got turned into a food court

  5. Monkey David on August 9, 2007 at 4:14 pm said:

    I live near Downey now. I’m sad to hear that it’s gone. I guess there are a couple left:

    The last Sambo’s is in Santa Barbara, I believe. There was one in Glendale on Dunlap and 43rd (or around there) much later than anywhere else.

    All of this reminds me of this site:

  6. My first real job was as a busboy (er, whatever) at the Monti’s steakhouse on 19th and Cactus, but it’s been bulldozed. I’ve been to Papago Plaza many times, though it’s been a few years–I’m glad it’s still there in some form. There’s a Sambo’s left in the universe, in Santa Barbara, CA–they still use much of the same iconography and it’s a fun place to visit if you’re ever passing through. Oh wait–duh, the person who posted before me said that exact thing, sorry. :) It was actually the original Sambo’s from what I understand.

    What restaurant is it in downtown Phoenix that still has the Sambo’s fixtures? I’ll have to see that when I’m in town. When I’m there, I usually frequent a wonderfully cheesy Mexican dive called Don Jose on 38th St. and Thomas, which is more or less exactly as it was in 1977. It’s in a “renovated” (and I’m being very generous) IHOP.

  7. when i was growing up in the seattle suburbs farrells was practically the only place we’d go for birthdays eventhough it was a bit of an embarrassment fest when they’d bang on the bass drum and have the entire restaurant sing happy birthday. i remember the zoo, but i don’t remember ever getting that. i remember the clown sundaes and the green river soft drink and the aisle of candy as you waited to pay(if we were lucky we’d get one of those giant jawbreakers). thanks for the nostalgia matt!

  8. I almost forgot about all that yummy candy, William.

    The downtown Phoenix restaurant with the old Sambo’s fixtures was Marvin’s Gardens on McDowell East of Central. I say “was” because now it’s being transformed into a Thai restaurant. Hopefully the new owners will not junk the groovy lights.

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