Happy Joe's Anniversary
November 13, 2012
A week-long celebration begins tomorrow for a company founded in the Quad Cities. Happy Joe's will celebrate its 40th anniversary, starting with its annual party for special needs children. Happy Joe Whitty opened his first pizza and ice cream restaurant in the village of East Davenport on November 16th, 1972. And he says, figuring he needed all the help he could get, he asked a priest to come down one day and pray with him.
"I promised that if Happy Joe's ever took off and did well that I'd close every year for a special needs party. We've done it for 40 years now, and last year we had 1,200 kids."
His first parties were held in Happy Joe's restaurants, but have since grown so large, they're now held in the I Wireless Center in Moline. Whitty says his company has survived and prospered for 40 years because the pizza business generally doesn't suffer as much as others during recessions.
" Mom and Dad might cut out the country club night or going to a steak place. But when it comes to birthday parties and pizza, that seems to fit the budget no matter what. And when they're having fun and making good money, then they want to celebrate too."
From one restaurant in 1972, Happy Joe's currently has grown to nearly 60, in six states. Now 75 years old, and mostly retired, Whitty says it doesn't seem possible that it's been 40 years. Other anniversary events include a Tribute Dinner on Monday, and a roast of Happy Joe next Tuesday. In addition, Whitty is using the occasion to start the Happy Joe's Kids Foundation to help kids with special needs, and their families.