On December 12, 1975, the original Shoney’s Restaurant closed down for good in Charleston. The Shoney’s chain grew from the original Parkette Drive-In and Bowling Alley, which had opened on the city’s West Side in 1947.
The restaurant was the brainchild of Alex Schoenbaum, a former All-American football player at Ohio State. He moved to Charleston in 1943 and opened the Parkette four years later.
The business took off when Schoenbaum purchased the Southeastern U.S. franchise rights for the Big Boy hamburger chain. Two years later, an employee contest branded the restaurant chain as Shoney’s. Eventually, Shoney’s would become the largest Big Boy franchise in the country.
In 1971, Schoenbaum sold his interest in the company to Captain D’s founder and Shoney’s franchise holder Ray Danner. The chain continued to expand and, by its peak in 1998, had more than 1,300 restaurants in 34 states.
Alex Schoenbaum died in 1996. He and his wife Betty have left a notable philanthropic mark on West Virginia’s capital city, including large donations to the University of Charleston, a family enrichment center, and a soccer field, to name just a few.