Thousands of Polaroids crowded the walls and mustache key chains hung from the register at Sammy’s. But now the name is gone, and chalkboard messages have replaced the original decor. Zeek’s has become the new home of the famous pie shake.
The Provo burger joint recently changed owners after business declined and employee complaints arose under the previous owner, Sam Schultz.
New owners, Alex and Issac Ames, brothers from Liberty, Missouri, got their start early on in Sammy’s history. Alex was a business intern there, and Isaac was a cook. The restaurant’s original investor approached the two brothers about taking over both the Provo and Rexburg locations when conflict arose and bad press began to plague the restaurant.
“I got really excited with the prospect of saving a once-amazing brand,” Alex said. “(Sam) had created a brand of amazing things.”
The restaurant isn’t purely a business venture for the brothers; it’s about local pride. “The reason why we wanted to get it in the first place was because we knew the potential that it had to be a good place for Provo,” Isaac said. “When it was in its prime, this was a local hot spot for students and for families, and we want to do that again.”
Alex is a UVU student whose business studies involve emotional intelligence and business culture, and he’s using his experience to build Zeek’s new brand. The brothers are going beyond BYU to do that. The Ameses have reached out to local businesses, food critics and temple workers and have put in a ballot for the board of directors in the Utah Valley and Rexburg Chambers of Commerce.
“We want to hold onto the things that the old owner may not have realized that he had, and that’s a feeling of local pride,” Alex said. The Ames brothers believe support from universities can only go so far. The viability of the business, they said, relies on local support.
Isaac will apply to the BYU business program later this year and is finding his experience at Zeek’s instructive for his field of study. “It was kind of surprising when we did take all the reins and realized how much work that needed to be done. At first, a little daunting.”
But now the brothers are expending resources to improve quality and public interest. “The biggest goals are getting people in the door … and us reaching out to local businesses. We really want to bring integrity into the business world,” Isaac said.
Eventually the brothers hope to expand Zeek’s to reach similar college town demographics when their current locations reach a “viable standpoint.”
“This is the perfect time to take these risks,” Isaac said. “I’m 22; the most I have to lose is my scooter and my laptop. What’s the worst that could happen?”