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Iowa History Daily: November 16 - Happy Birthday Happy Joe's

Iowa History Daily: On November 16, 1972, the first “Happy Joe’s” opened in Bettendorf, Iowa. The originator of taco pizza and home to many Iowans fondest childhood birthday party memories, “Happy” Joe Whitty grew a single pizza and ice cream parlor into one of Iowa’s favorite franchises.

Originally from North Dakota, Joseph “Happy Joe” Whitty moved to Davenport in the 1960s to run the Super Value Bakery on Fourth Street before opening his first restaurant. Whitty then took a job as manager for Shakey's Pizza. Whitty decided to open his own place after Shakey’s disciplined him for throwing a child a birthday party. Birthday parties grew to represent a significant legacy of the popular restaurants.

Joseph Whitty's "Happy Joe's" also claimed status as the first pizza restaurant to offer a taco pizza (a pizza with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and taco chips). After a franchisee suggested adding tacos to the menu, Whitty invented the restaurant's best-selling and best-known product.

The locations changed over the years, but locations often featured extensive arcades, soda fountains, jukeboxes, and other fun features. An iconic Iowa restaurant, many throughout the state fondly remember birthday parties and other gatherings. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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