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Sammy's turns 60

Pizza chefs Matt Beckrich (from left), Bill Anderson and Michael Atchison are hard at work Tuesday dealing with the lunchtime rush of customers and pizza orders. Jana Peterson/

The year was 1954. With the encouragement of family, friends and customers, Sam Perrella and his wife, Louise, moved their small café in Keewatin to the more populated city of Hibbing. Their idea was to expand the menu with pizzas — even though not too many people knew what a pizza was back then.

While working in the iron mines, Sam learned about pizzas from war veterans and traveled to Chicago to learn how pizzas are made. After a great deal of experimentation and sauce recipe development, Sam introduced the “pie” to the Iron Range.

“The pizza and the original store was an immediate success,” said Marguerite (Perrella) Acheson, daughter of Sam and original owner of Sammy’s Pizza in Lakeside. “It wasn’t long before more Sammy’s locations were opening everywhere.”

To highlight opening dates of Sammy’s Pizza in our area:

  •  The original location in Hibbing opened in 1954
  •  Downtown Duluth, West Duluth and Waite Park (St. Cloud) locations opened in 1956
  •  Lakeside location opened in 1958
  • Grand Rapids opened in 1986
  •  Hermantown opened in 1990
  •  Woodland opened in 1991
  •  Cloquet opened in 2000
  • +Duluth Heights opened 2007

Today, there are 17 locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin — all owned and operated by family members and close friends with help from sons, daughters, cousins, nephews and nieces. The Cloquet restaurant is owned by Mike Acheson, grandson to Sam and Louise.

Sammy’s now enters into the fourth generation of pizza makers.

“This is an exciting year for Sammy’s Pizza. We’ve been a family tradition for generations. And like every year before, we’re giving back to the communities we serve,” said Tony Jerulle, owner of Sammy’s in Grand Rapids. “But since this is a big year, we’re giving back in a big way.”

Sammy’s celebrated their 60th year by giving customers a 12-inch one-topping pizza for 60 cents when they bought any 14-inch or larger pizza, Sunday, April 27 through May 1. On Thursday, May 1 — the big day — the Sammy’s locations mentioned will donate 60 percent of their proceeds to each of their local Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapters.

“This is big for us, too. We’re really excited about what Sammy’s is doing for us,” said Tom Willette, commander of Carlton County DAV in Cloquet. “We’ll be at the Cloquet Sammy’s on May 1 wearing our DAV T-shirts and helping in any way we can.”