In 1968, Ernie and Rosie Jacobson were operating
successful pizza business in Albert Lea. Ernie looked
west to expand the business and soon Fairmont had a
Jake's Pizza of its own. "Dad thought Fairmont was a
good town so he and my brother, Larry, started a store
here," said Mark Jacobson, who until Thursday operated
the restaurant for 34 years.
Jake's originally was located where Profinium Financial is today.
Mark helped remodel the building before leaving for a
military tour in Vietnam. When he returned, he planned
to go to college, so while he waited for the next
semester to begin, he worked at Jake's. But Larry wanted
to go to college too and persuaded Mark to buy his share
of the business. It was September 1970. Mark and his
wife, Sue have enjoyed running the business since.
But on July I, 2004(to present), the Fairmont institution entered a new
era when Jeff and Kim Ehlert took over. Kim has worked
for Jacobson for about 25 years. The two families have
been discussing the move for about two years. Jacobson
said, but he wanted to make sure his daughters did not
want to run the business. Neither did, clearing the way
for the Ehlerts to buy out Jacobson.
The restaurant has played a major role for the
Jacobsons and Ehlerts, Mark and Sue rim the business
with Ernie, then later their daughters, Nikki and Sarah,
worked there. "I
started them working when they were about 13 years old,
"Mark said, "first baking and then later Nikki
waitressed. The girls worked at Jake's through high
school and on breaks from college.
The Ehlerts' three children, Jade, Shaina and Shea also
have worked at Jake's, Shea works there now, but will be
leaving for college in the fall. Jeff worked for Mark
for two years when he was in high school.
"I came over to visit some friends and Mark
said, 'What are you doing?" Jeff recalled. "He told me I
could start working, I told him I already had a job, but
he said “You can do both.''
Jeff has been back at Jake's for more than a year,
preparing to take over the business. "We had to break
him in," . Kim quipped. On his last day of ownership,
Mark, Jeff and Kim sat around a table at Jake's and
reminisced about the business' history.
"My wife and I can still remember starting out when we
were young," Mark said, "We lived above the pizza shop
and we didn't have any air conditioning so when it was
hot we left the windows open all night. That was before
1-90 was in and all those hog trucks would come by and
when they downshifted on that curve, those pigs would
start squealing," and the smell," Another memory, albeit
not a fond one, was the operating hours they kept in the
early days. "We opened later," Mark said. "We
started at 5 p.m. and stayed open until 2 a.m. I
remember that Susie and I would sit there waiting on
(late night revelers) to leave.” A couple of years
later, closing moved back to 1 a.m. and then to midnight
when Jake's moved to its present location in 1975. "Now
we have sweet hours.” Mark said.
He also recalled days when a large pizza sold for $3
and gas for delivery drivers was 32 cents. Kim remembers
there were fewer items on the menu in those days, They
also went through so many cans of soda that trash cans
were regularly overflowing with empties, One incident
that rises to the top of Jacobson's memories is his 20th
anniversary customer appreciation sale. “I thought I
would be nice and have a customer appreciation night,"
Mark said. He did not realize how the restaurant's
popularity would affect that notion. "Not knowing how to
go about it, I offered a buy one, get one free deal. You
didn't need a coupon, you could just walk in and make an
"We ran out of everything.
We ran out of dough and we had to make more. We ran out
of supplies and the phone was ringing off the hook," he
said. "People weren't just ordering one pizza," added
Kim. "They were ordering as many as they could afford.
They were ordering five at a time. I had ads in the
paper and on the radio," said Mark, laughing. "So I
called the radio station and told them to stop running
the ads immediately. I thought it was a nice gesture,
but boy did that backfire."
Jacobson is proud of the many years Jake's has served
the Fairmont area. He also is proud of the fact that
many families have been employed at Jake's, including
parents and siblings. "People always like working for
him," Jeff said. Several current employees. like Kim,
have worked more than two decades at Jake's. Toni Galpin
has been there for 28 years and Ruthe Young for 27. "I
guess if you treat people decent they will keep with
you," Mark said. ''Toni was the first daytime waitress I
hired when we moved here. I am surprised at the number
of people around here who have worked for me."
The years have brought unique loyalty to
Jake's on the part of customers. Mark hears parents tell
him their kids' enjoyed working there. He also hears
about people who move away and upon coming back to visit
make Jake's a priority stop.
Over the years, the pizza place has been a meeting
place for area youth as well.
transfer of ownership, nothing is really going to
change, according to the Ehlerts. However, the front of
the building will be getting a facelift. Mark said. And
he might not stay out of the business for long. He will
always be available to help the Ehlerts, he said, and
one of his daughters said when her husband is out of the
military, they may start a pizza place. "But , that's
only going to be on a consulting basis," Mark said with
a smile. "At least that's how it will start."
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