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Sambo's

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The Sambo's Restaurant chain was founded in 1957. The restaurant's name came from an abbreviation of the owners names: Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. However, the chain quickly became associated with the story of Little Black Sambo. The restaurants were decorated with scenes of the Indian boy and Tigers. By 1979, there were about 1,200 locations nationwide. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, lawsuits and political pressure led the company to change its image. However, the rebranding was unsuccessful. By 1982, there was only the original location in Santa Barbara, CA left. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

Sambo's
Santa Barbara, CA
This Sambo's is the chain's original location. It was built in 1957. For more, see this website. [map]

former Sambo's
Yuba City, CA
former Sambo's
Reno, NV
This former Sambo's in Yuba City now houses the Waffle Barn. [map]

This former Sambo's in Reno now houses the Asian Garden Restaurant. [map]

former Sambo's
Sparks, NV
This former Sambo's now houses Jack's Coffee Shop. [map]

former Sambo's
Riverside, CA
This former Sambo's now houses Mariscos Ensenada. [map]

former Sambo's
Boise, ID
This former Sambo's was built in 1966. It has housed the Tepanyaki Steak House since 1989. The building was being remodeled when these photos were taken in 2014. Fortunately, it looks the same afterwards. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

former Sambo's
Fairfield, CA
This former Sambo's was built around 1968. The building housed the Original Sandy's 101 Omelettes when these photos were taken in 2014. By 2015, it was housing Hot Stone Korean BBQ. Previously, the building housed the Pacific Rice Kitchen, the Fire Pit, and several other restaurants. For more, see this website. [map]

former Sambo's
San Diego, CA
This former Sambo's has housed Perry's Cafe since 1985. [map]

former Sambo's [gone]
Downey, CA
This former Sambo's was built in 1968. The building housed Pepe's Tacos in 2011. It has been vacant since 2012. This photo is from 2015. The building was demolished by 2016. For more, see this website.

former Sambo's
San Jose, CA
2008: 2014:
This former Sambo's was built in 1967. The building now houses the Bo Town Seafood restaurant. The original sign was adapted twice (see above photos). For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

former Sambo's
Ukiah, CA

2008:

2016::
This former Sambo's was being remodeled in 2008. Since 2015, the building has houses the Wing Stop restaurant. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

former Sambo's
Las Cruces, NM
This former Sambo's was built in 1970. The building was vacant when these photos were taken in 2017. For more, see this website. [map]

former Sambo's
Santa Rosa, CA
This former Sambo's has houses Adel's Restaurant since at least 2009. This building and the one in Seattle, Sunnyvale, Grants Pass, and others below were built from the design of Ronald Bergquist. [map]

former Sambo's
Orlando, FL
former Sambo's
Seattle, WA
This former Sambo's in Orlando housed the Acapulco Mexican Restaurant when this photo was taken in 2005. After that, the restaurant housed the Presidential Diner and the building was repainted. The building now houses Que Rico, La Casa del Mofongo. For more, see this website. [map]

This former Sambos in Seattle was built in 1963. The building housed the Traveler's Lounge and, later, the Aurora Family Restaurant. Since 2005, Aurora Rents has occupied the building. At some point between 2008 and 2011, the original Sambo's sign frame was removed. [map]

former Sambo's [gone]
Sacramento, CA

2008:

2014:
This former Sambo's was built in the mid-1960s and operated until around 1982. From 2007 until around 2013, the building housed the El Patron Bar & Grill. It was vacant when these photos were taken in 2014. the building was demolished by 2015. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

former Sambo's
Grants Pass, OR
former Sambo's
Sunnyvale, CA
This former Sambo's in Grants Pass housed the China Buffet when this photo was taken in 2008. The building now houses the Tokyo Teppanyaki Restaurant. Originally, there were letters spelling out the name SAMBOS on each of the blue pieces on the front of the roof. [map]

This former Sambo's in Sunnyvale now houses Hobee's Restaurant. For more, see this website. [map]

former Sambo's
Yuma, AZ

2012:

2017:
This former Sambo's was built in 1966 in conjunction with the Royal Inn Motor Hotel next door. The building has housed a number of restaurants over the years. In 2015, the building was vacant. In 2016, the building was still closed but being renovated. The unique curved-notch panel at the front of the building had been filled in. [map]

former Sambo's
Tucson, AZ
This former Sambo's was built in 1964. It was the first building using this design by Ronald Bergquist. The design was used later for the Yuma building above, the Bakersfield building below, and others. From 2000-2015, the Tucson building housed Chaffin's Diner. In 2016, the building was restored to reflect its Sambo's origins. It opened that year as the Welcome Diner. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

former Sambo's
Bakersfield, CA
This former Sambo's now houses La Mina Mexican Restaurant. The building was previously painted purple and white with orange and yellow trim. It was painted the colors shown above in 2008. For more, see this website. [map]

former Sambo's
Azusa, CA

2008:

2013:
This former Sambo's has been here since at least the early 1970s. It was a Seasons restaurant for awhile, then a Godfather's Pizza, and then a Bakers Square. The building then sat for about ten years before becoming the Whole Enchilada. By 2011, the business had become a Dalia's Italian Restaurant. [map]

former Sambo's
Ogden, UT
former Sambo's
Modesto, CA
This former Sambo's in Ogden now houses Pro Street Embroidery. The sign was also adapted. For more, see this website. [map]

This former Sambo's in Modesto now houses Modesto Car Toys. The building is located next door to the former Tropics Motor Hotel which was built in 1961. This Sambo's was built at the same time. The building housed a Denny's later on. For more, see these website: 1 and 2. [map]

former Sambo's
Alameda, CA
former Sambo's
Willamina, OR
Sambo's
copycat sign
Show Low, AZ
This former Sambo's in Alameda was built in conjunction with the Royal Inn Motor Hotel next door. The restaurant now houses Bucket O' Crawfish. For more, see this website. [map]

This former Sambo's sign in Willamina was adapted for the Fort Hill Restaurant by 2008. This photo is from 2016. I don't think there was ever a Sambo's in Willamina and the building looks nothing like a Sambo's. This sign must have come from somewhere else. It would have looked like this originally with a "Open 24 Hours" panel on the spear at the top. [map]

I believe this sign in Show Low is a Sambo's copycat sign. When the sign advertised for the Sho Lo Bowl it had 1960s-looking panels. I don't believe Sambo's ever used slanted poles like this. There is also no companion Sambo's-looking building but rather a big, rounded roof typical of bowling alleys. The sign now advertises for the new tenant, the Hopeful Treasures Resale Boutique. However, there was a Sambo's in Show Low and it's possible this sign might have been there and then moved and recycled by the bowling alley. [map]

More former Sambo's Restaurants:
Downey, CA: 1, 2 [vintage]
San Bernardino, CA [vintage]

Lil' Sambo's
Lincoln City, OR
This Lil' Sambo's restaurant was never part of the Sambo's chain described above. It was built in 1957 as Pixie Pancakes. It later became Lil' Black Sambo's and then Lil' Sambo's. The restaurant was destroyed in a fire in 2002 and was rebuilt. For more, see this website. [map]

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