Chi-Chi’s

Do you remember Chi-Chi's?

Chi-Chi’s was big on spicy food, from salsa and nachos to everything else Americans think of as Tex-Mex food. Created by former Green Bay Packers star Max McGee and restaurateur Marno McDermit, it launched in 1975 in the unlikeliest of places for a Mexican food chain: Richfield, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.

The timing was perfect, with Mexican food a trendy choice for diners at that time. Chi-Chi’s took off, growing to 237 locations by 1986. But increased competition and a slew of unfortunate events spelled the chain’s demise: The number of location slipped to 144 by 2002; Chi-Chi’s filed for bankruptcy in October 2003.

In November 2003, a month after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chi-Chi’s was hit with the largest hepatitis A outbreak in U.S. history, with at least four deaths and 660 other victims of illness in the Pittsburgh area, including high school students who caught the disease from the original victims. The hepatitis was traced back to green onions at the Chi-Chi’s at Beaver Valley Mall near Monaca, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Chi-Chi’s settled the hepatitis A lawsuits by July 2004. At the time the suits were settled, Chi-Chi’s had only 65 restaurants, fewer than half of the number of four years prior.

In August 2004, Outback Steakhouse bid $42.5 million for the rights to buy its choice of Chi-Chi’s 76 properties, but did not purchase the Chi-Chi’s name, operations, or recipes. On the weekend of September 18, 2004, Chi-Chi’s closed all 65 of its remaining restaurants.

The Rise & Fall of Chi-Chi's

1975
Founded
Chi-Chi’s was Founded

Chi-Chi's was founded in 1975 in Richfield, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, by restaurateur Marno McDermott (his wife's nickname was "Chi Chi") and former Green Bay Packers player Max McGee. McDermott had previously founded the Zapata fast-food Mexican chain, which later became Zantigo. From 1977 to 1986, the chain was run by former KFC executive Shelly Frank. When Frank took leadership, the chain moved its headquarters to his hometown of Louisville. By March 1995, the chain had grown to 210 locations

2004
Defunct
The End of Chi-Chi's

Chi-Chi's closed its remaining 65 locations on September 18, 2004.

Click through the gallery above for some of the most popular forgotten retail spots that are now gone, but never forgotten. Did we miss one of your favorites? Share your memories in the comments.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments