Arizona Republic 1966

Bug Bites and Booming

A South Pacific mosquito is responsible for the establishment of a Phoenix business that employs 50 persons.

The mosquito bit Peter M. Grant Jr., who was skippering a PT boat. Grant got malaria.

When Grant got out of the Navy, after five years, the doctor told him he had to go to a dry climate to get over the effects of the malaria.

That’s why Grant, teacher and coach by profession, arrived in Phoenix in December 1946. This wasn’t quite the season for getting a school job, so he looked around.

On March 23, 1947, Grant gave his pants a figurative hitch and waded into business. He staked $900 on starting fish and chips shop at 3060 E. Van Buren.

“That $900 was all I had,” he said, “except for my wife of one year, Ruth.”

The money provided a 6-by-8-foot building, some equipment and a few basic supplies.

< During the 20 years, Grant has built 21 drive-ins in all and has had gross, “fish and chips” sales of $6 million.

And he’s achieved some note in golf with a state amateur championship to his credit and participation in the British Amateur Tournament in England and Scotland.

“We’ve increased gross income every year,” said Grant. “We’ve kept the same quality and quantity as 20 years ago. And we’ve never raised prices.”

COIN WORLD story helps in arrest of murder suspect Phoenix, Ariz., police have arrested a suspect in the December murder-robbery of Phoenix coin dealer and restaurateur Peter Grant.

The arrest came after another dealer in neighboring Scottsdale had read a Jan. 27 Coin World account of the murder and recognized a special commemorative silver round taken from Grant’s home and illustrated with the Coin World article.

That afternoon, James Karis, 65, came into the Scottsdale dealer’s store and inquired about the dealer’s buying price for the rounds. Police will not reveal the Scottsdale dealer’s name for security reasons.

When Karis left the store, the dealer called police and a follow-up investigation was conducted. Karis was arrested in Scottsdale Jan. 29.

Police found several of the 1-ounce silver rounds, minted in 1972 for the 25th anniversary of Grant’s restaurant , “Pete’s Fish and Chips,” in Karis’ possession. Other items related to the crime were also found, police say.

Grant was murdered Dec. 14 or 15 and robbed of 600 of the silver rounds and 10 $500 face value bags of silver coins.

Karis had successfully sold a number of the rounds to the Scottdale dealer between Dec. 21 and the time of his arrest, police say.

Karis was arraigned Jan. 30 and charged with first-degree murder and 10 counts of selling stolen property. At press time, he was being held without bond in Maricopa County.

The Mesa Tribune

March 11, 1985

Something fishy – 40 years of bargain fare no secret at Pete’s place

Ten tons of beef, 120,000 pounds of Icelandic cod, 30,000 pounds of shrimp – sounds like a tall order for a hungry football team.

Actually, it’s a routine shipment for Peter Grant, whose customers have been gobbling up fish, chips and burgers at Pete’s Fish and Chips for nearly 40 years.

In that time, the menu hasn’t changed, except for prices of course. But Pete’s specialty still is a bargain. The price for a plate of crispy fish and French fries has risen from 35 cents to $1.10 since 1946, not bad for decades of inflation.

“People say to me, ‘Why don’t you raise your prices?’ And I say no, because I sell three things: Price, quality and service,” said the 70-year-old Grant, perched on a picnic table at the 25-year-old Mesa outlet.

“That’s the great secret of Pete’s. They might not know who Pete is, but they know when they go to a Pete’s they are going to get a pretty good shake for their money,” he said.

The ambiance at Pete’s is unassuming. Red and white handlettered menus, metal awnings and wooden picnic tables lend a downtown flavor to the store at 315 E. Main St. “It’s not fancy, but it’s clean and it’s good.”

Grant said he got the idea for his fish and chips outlets when he was a Naval officer stationed overseas during World War II. “I had seen fish and chips business during the war,” he said.

And when a three-year South Pacific stint ended with a severe case of dysentery and malaria, he decided to sink his last $900 into the venture.

And why did the Indiana native choose Arizona? “I was very ill, and the Navy advised me to go to one of two places to recuperate: Arizona or Egypt. And I couldn’t speak Egyptian,” Grant said with a laugh.

“I’m a teacher and a coach by profession, but I was unable to follow that line of work when I came here because I was too ill.

“So I opened the first fish and chips store in the United States 39 years ago at 3060 E. Van Buren,” he said, as a dozen customers at surrounding tables feasted on fried fish fillets.

Grant attributed his tremendous success to his patience, determination and ability to deal with people. “I’m a natural teacher and an educator. And I teach people how to operate the store like I want them too.”

Grant’s advice to aspiring millionaires: “Be very confident, don’t be afraid to work long hours and try to save a little of what you make.”

Mesa Tribune


Family-owned restaurant marks 45th year

The last time Pete’s Fish & Chips held an anniversary celebration there was bedlam. It was the restaurant’s 44th anniversary and the owners decided to give away 44 T-shirts at its Indian School and 44th Street location to the first 44 customers at 4:44 p.m.

“People lined up at three that afternoon, there was a traffic jam,” said Kathy Adams, one of the business’s four owners. “They were fighting in line, it was nuts.”

This year the family-owned business is celebrating its 45th anniversary Monday at all its 10 Valley locations. Adams hopes things go a little smoother this time. Patrons will get items like bumper stickers, hats and pens with their food.

“We are having another anniversary celebration because it’s our way of saying thank you to our customers,” Adams explained.

Today the 10 restaurants are all run by family members or long-time employees.

Adams and Foster took over the business after their father’s death and the pair have run it ever since.

“Very little has changed at Pete’s Fish & Chips since it was started,” she said. “We have been able to keep prices low because we have a low overhead and are able to buy in such quantity.”

Adams know the business so well because she began working there long before 1987.

“When I was nine years old I started working at the store peeling potatoes. My older children work in the stores now and the younger two can’t wait to start. It’s a real family business.”

The stores have been kept simple, but the food moves through. None of the stores have indoor seating, but all still have outdoor wooden picnic tables for patrons.

Mesa Tribune

March 13, 1997

Pete’s turns 50 – Valley fish eatery has family in chips

It’s been 50 years since Pete’s Fish & Chips started telling customers not to evenbother asking for ketchup, mustard, tartar sauce, lemon or ranch dressing.

“You don’t get it your way, you get Pete’s Special Sauce,” said Kathy Adams, president of the nine-store chain. “We are a little sassy, and we do things our way. It’s worked for us for 50 years.”

Not that anyone is complaining.

Pete’s Special Sauce, a spicy red concoction with a closely guarded recipe, gets as much credit for Pete’s staying power as its low-priced Icelandic cod fillets.

“We get calls weekly from people wanting to know how to make the sauce, or from people wanting us to ship them a gallon of sauce,” said Adams’ sister Pat Foster. “We get calls from California wanting us to Federal Express an order to them. It’s crazy.”

“We’ve seen so many franchises blow into town, put up 25 or 30 outlets, and a coule of years later we’re buying their used equipment because they are out of business,” Foster said.

Adams added, “We get a lot of calls from people who want to franchise our business. Why would we want to get huge? We have nine stores, we own them, they make money and we’re happy.”

Arizona Republic Newspaper

March 28 1997

Fish (and chips) tale

It’s Pete’s: Cheap food, served fast, for 50 years and counting The first thing you notice is the smell. That Pete’s Fish and Chips smell. It hangs in the atmosphere, permeates the air, infiltrates the nostrils. In a pleasant sort of way.

It’s a comforting whiff of fish and oil and smoke that tells customers exactly where they are and why they stopped by. Cheap food, served fast, without frills. Been that way for 50 years.

“It’s not gourmet food, but it’s not supposed to be gourmet food,” said jack Boland, snacking on a three-piece fish and chips plate at Pete’s at 22 S. Mesa Drive, Mesa. Keeping things simple has been Pete’s specialty since Pete Grant opened his first stand at 30th and Van Buren streets on March 23, 1947 using his life’s savings of $900. “Pete’s serves three things: price, quality and service, and when you’ve got those three, what else do you need?” asked Kathy Adams, president of the nine-store chain and daughter of founder Pete Grant.

“All of us girls started working since we were old enough to peel potatoes,” said Adams, referring to sisters Ginnie Grant and Babs Sanders, who are no longer involved in day-to-day business.

“It’s quite family owned and oriented. We like it that way.”

Besides burgers and hot dogs, the menu includes deep-fried fish fillets, shrimp and oysters, served with fries and Pete’s Special Sauce, a deep-red dip the recipe for which remains a closely guarded secret.

Pete Grant created the sauce from “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” “We don’t have it written down anywhere,” Adams said.

There’s not much of a choice of condiments. Order a burger or fish, you get the sauce, no ketchup. “We want you to eat our sauce,” Adams said.

Pete’s T-shirts, also sold at the stores and worn by employees, have been spotted at the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China and in Australia. An anniversary shirt is hot off the press, “50 yars and Still Cookin’” “We’ve gone global,” Foster said.

The last Pete’s was built in 1995 at 55th and Glendale avenues and one is planned for south Phoenix, but that’s about it. Spurning offers to build in Ahwatukee and in other outliying areas, the sisters believe in staying close to their central roots.

“We’re happy where we are,” Adams said. “We can get to all of our stores in one day’s time and still get back home.”

The biggest advice Dad had? “Just don’t change anything,” Adams said.

So the tradition of Pete’s continues – without expansion, high prices and with little promotion. The food and the sauce sell themselves. “Dad always said word of mouth is the best kind of advertising,” Adams said. “And think about it – if you’re not established after 50 years, what’s the point?”

The Arizona Republic

January 5, 1999

Take Out

Pete’s Fish & chips

Type of food served: If in doubt, see name above, but also chicken nuggets, hamburgers, burritos, corn dogs ad Pete’s inimitable Monsterburger…a three-quarter pounder that Elvis (or, the first Burger Eater) would snap up with relish.

Drive-through? Not only a drive-through, but noted on their menu, “Takeout orders our specialty.”

Time to prepare order: We ordered, watched three other drive away with their orders and put ‘er in gear with food aboard in five minutes.

Quality of packing: Pete’s hasn’t succumbed to the injection-molded, foam plastic clamshells. The mound of fries and accompanying pair of fish filets were placed on a no-leak paper plate (protected by an anti-grease parchment), covered with a napkin tucked in at the corner and placed carefully into a white paper bag with the open end folded under. It was handed out flat, and only a dummy would put it down any other way. Our drink was in a foam container with a tight fitting lid that stayed put even when we almost knocked it over in the car.

Freshness factor: We put our buggy in gear at 12:37 and hit the office eight minute later to a plate of hot fish ‘n’ chips. No reheating needed. Feasting: This is the tough part. We’ve patronized Pete’s chain of (now) nine takeout/eat in places since the late 1950’s. It’s a tradition, despite the constant reminders from the painfully healthy that fried food is bad for us.

Pete’s is not, nor has it ever been, a home of haute cuisine. The founder, Pete Grant, was a tough old bird. A no-nonsense guy who didn’t pay heed to consultants or designers or others who tried to tell him how to run his business. His strong point always was plenty of food served quickly and hot.

Some may deem deep fried foodstuffs to be the root of all evil and complete dietary failure; for others, such fare is at the center of youthful memory.

For the former, go somewhere else.

For the latter, it’s Pete’s

-Chuck Hawley

Arcadia News

December 2000

Pete’s Fish & Chips Nets a Remodel

Family owned and operated since 1947, Pete’s Fish and Chips enjoys the distinction of being the first fast-food establishment in the Phoenix area. The first fish and chips shop that founder, Pete Grant, opened was located right on the edge of a driving range at 3060 East Van Buren, and was called SportsFair Fish & Chips. Originally, for 35 cents, you could get an order of fish and chips, and a bottle of Coca-cola for a nickel. 1947 menu selections are still available, along with many other choices added over the years.

In 1952, Pete’s opened its doors near the northwest corner of 44th Street and Indian School Road, just west of the Chevron Station. The building had originally housed a Mom and Pop donut ship. It became Pete’s Fish & Chips’ first drive-thru in the Valley. This was such a unique concept at that time, that several corporate executives from a fast food hamburger chain came out to talk to Pete about the success of a drive-thru.

In 1961, Pete Grant moved his restaurant to its present Arcadia location, on the east side of 44th Street just north of Indian School Road. As that time, the property was an orange and grapefruit orchard, so in order to clear the land, Pete put up a sign that read, “Free Citrus Trees. You Dig.”

The Arizona Republic

February 26, 2004

East Valley’s fish restaurants in the chips during Lent

Forty days of Lent began Wednesday for Catholics in the East Valley. “Forty days of bliss,” boasted Pat Foster, co-owner of Pete’s Fish & Chips restaurants.

Foster was not alluding to the culinary pleasures that she, like many Catholics, will avoid during the period of prayer and pentinence. For them, Fridays will be a day to abstain from eating meat.

Long lines from well before noon at Pete’s downtown Mesa restaurant, sometimes tripling receipts at the Mesa outlet and propelling sales upstream at the corporation’s eight other Valley locations.

That accounts for between six and seven semi-trailers of North Atlantic cod consumed by customers of the local chain in 40 days, Foster said.

The Glendale Star

March 29, 2007

Pete’s Fish & chips celebrates 60th anniversary

Peter Grant and his pregnant wife, Ruth, arrived in Phoenix Christmas Day 1946, pulling a tiny house trailer. He had just $900 in his pocket. Three months later, March 23, 1947, he built a little shack on the edge of a driving range on Van Buren Street near 30th Street and began selling fish and chips. Last Friday, Pete’s Fish and Chips celebrated its 60th Anniversary.

“While he was serviing in the Navy during World War II, he toured through Europe and saw these little fish and chips stands, where you bought your fish wrapped in newspaper and away you went,” said Kathy Adams, the second of Grant’s four daughters, who now runs the business along with younger sister, Pat Foster. “He was fascinated by that concept of fast food. In 1947, there were no fast food outlets, there were diners, where you went in and sat down and ate.”

So Grant went out, and bought some fish filets, a couple bags of potatoes, a fryer and some oil and away he went. The first day, he made a profit of $12, a tidy sum in 1947. “It was perfect, he could cook fish and golf at the same time, which was one of his passions,” Adams said.

His first year in business, Grant opened three fish and chips shops. “He know from the beginning the fish and chip fast food concept would be hot,” Adams said. “For 35 cents, you could get a piece of fish, French fries and a little cup of sauce. For an extra five cents, you could have a bottle of pop, but you had to hand the bottle back in because of the deposit.”

It was only due to a case of malaria Grant contracted during the war that landed the athletic young man in Arizona.

“He was born in Nebraska and raised in Indianapolis, Ind.,” Adams said. “He lettered in four sports at Indiana State University. His basketball team was one of the original Hoosiers, who took the state championship.”

Adams said her dad was captain of PT boat No. 66 serving in the Philippines Theater. “He used to play poker with a then unknown John F. Kennedy,” Adams said.

“What is unique about Pete’s is that it is only in Maricopa County,” said Steve Garday, manager of the Glendale shop. Pete’s has become famous for its special ‘red sauce’ customers can purchase in four different sizes. “And no, we don’t give out the secret recipe,” Garday said.

“For any order of more than $50, we give customers a Pete’s T-shirt and a great big thank you,” Garday said.

The Republic

April 28, 2010

Pete’s still satisfies devotees of fish, chips

Pete’s Fish & Chips, A Valley fast-food chain, is celebrating its 63rd anniversary this year.

What started out as a tiny fish and chips stand in mesa with no running water is now a popular eatery with eight locations, including one each in Glendale and Tolleson. The business has thrived despite the recession, says Pat Foster, who co-owns and operates the restaurant with three sisters.

The chain goes through 5,000 pounds of fish a week. Foster credits its success to serving quality food at affordable prices. “We’re inexpensive and we serve a really good quality product, but (having simple restaurants) allows us to keep our costs to a minimum,” Foster said. “We just operate a mean and lean chain of restaurants.”

Foster says repeat business from Pete’s devotees is the reason the restaurants have continued to thrive. A Facebook fan page maintained for the restaurant has more than 4,500 members.

“We don’t know who started it, but it’s a healthy thing and I’m glad to see it,” Foster said.

“Lent is our biggest season. It’s 40 days of wonderful,” Foster said, referring to the period leading up to Easter in which many Catholics give up meat, but not fish. “We did really well this Lent.”

Some things have not changed in 63 years. “Monster Burgers” remain on the menu, named after late founder Pete Grant’s nicknames for his children. At the restaurant’s headquarters in Mesa, there are no computers. The sisters do not email or use complicated spreadsheets to chart the chain’s growth.

The family is looking to grow the business. They recently penned a contract to buy land adjacent to the Tolleson location.

They plan on bulldozing the existing building and erect what they refer to in the office as a “Super Pete’s” – a bigger, more brightly lit branch that will double or triple the volume of customers. They will go from four tables to 35, four cookers to seven.

“We hope to be up and running by fall,” co-owner Kathy Adams said.

Mesa Tribune

May 23, 2004

Pete’s Fish and Chips thrives at 57

By Lynn Ducey

Pete’s Fish and Chips is a Valley tradition that the four Grant girls are making sure stays true to its roots. With nine locations, the homegrown restaurant just celebrated its 57th anniversary and continues to offer fish, chips and a bit more, all with a little special sauce on the side.

Two of the Grant sisters, Pat Foster and Kathy adams, run the business’ day-to-day operations, while tow other sisters, Ginnie Monroe and Barbara Sanders, retain ownership in the company.

The women, all wives and mothers of grown children, are devoted to the company begun in 1947 by their father, Pet Grant, and hold his memory dear. Pete Grant died in 1987 at the hands of a convicted thief and robber who died in prison while serving time for the crime. After the tragedy, the family decided to keep the business operating in the family.

“When you grow up doing something your whole life, you don’t know anything different,” Adams said. “It took both of us to fill our dad’s shoes. He had a great business sense, and we inherited a fantastic accounting set-up,” Foster said.

Since then, the women have reinvested in the company and made ownership of their outlets a priority, Foster said. When the sisters took over, the company rented five of its nine locations.

Now, the company owns the property outright at eight locations, Foster said.

The sisters said the restaurant’s appeal is its high-quality food at reasonable prices in a comfortable atmosphere. All of the locations have drive-throughs and window service, with outdoor dining areas for patrons.

“You can get several items and share it with everyone. If your child is a picky eater; we’ve got something they will like,” Kathy Adams said.

Mesa Tribune

February 17, 2010

5 place to go for great fish and chips

Pete’s Fish & Chips

If you’re in a hurry or strapped for cash, this Mesa-based chain of restaurants, which has eight Valley locations, has been reeling in hungry diners since 1947. Fine-food aficionados may turn up their noses at its drive-throughs and walk-up windows, but Pete’s Special Sauce is legendary. And you can’t beat the prices: $3.75 for two-piece finner and $5.25 for three-piece dinner.

Phoenix Magazine

June 2010

Fish Story

By Keridwen Cornelius

It was like the butterfly effect, but with a mosquito. Just as the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil could theoretically start a tornado in Texas, a South Pacific mosquito forever changed Phoenix’s food scene in 1946.

That’s when Peter Grant Jr. – an Indianapolis native, international golf champion NBA basketball player, World War II PT boat skipper and diehard fish ‘n’ chips fan contracted malaria.

He received a military discharge and doctors’ orders to move to Egypt or Arizona. Uttering the immortal words, “Hell, I can’t speak Egyptian,” Pete moved to Phoenix with an idea buzzing, mosquito like, in his head: He had enjoyed eating at fish ‘n’ chips shops in Europe during the war, so why not open one in Phoenix?

He built a shack at 31 st and Van Buren streets and launched Pete’s Fish & Chips on March 23, 1947, earning a $12 profit the first day. Over the next few decades, Pete opened eight locations throughout the Valley, calling the business “the Biltmore for the common man.”

The, in December 1987, a thief shot Pete to death and stole his $30,000 coin collection. Pete’s daughters told the story to a national trade magazine, and a Scottsdale coin dealer who read the article called the police when a man tried to sell him Pete’s Fish & Chips commemorative coins. The murderer was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Today, Pete’s daughters Kathy Adams and Pat Foster run the business just as their father did, honoring his legacy

West Valley View

August 10, 2010

Pete’s Fish and Chips to expand

By Emiily Mcann

Tolleson restaurant also to be named after longtime manager.

Ruth Walden loved Pete’s Fish and Chips so much she was buried in the restaurant’s shirt and jacket and asked that people wear the same to her funeral.

The longtime Tolleson resident, who died in May at age 79, worked as a manager at the restaurant for 57 years. So it seems only fitting the owners decided to name a future renovated location in Tolleson the Ruth Walden Super Pete’s.

Plans are still underway for the new building, which will replace the current restaurant at 9309 W. Van Buren St. Once construction starts, it should take about three months to complete, said Pat Foster, one of the owners.

“I think it’s awesome, because Pete’s was her life,” Walden’s daughter, Kathy Brooks said. “That’s one thing that kept her getting up every morning.”

Walden’s mother was also a manager at Pete’s. So Brook, along with her brother, son and sister-in-law, is keeping the family tradition alive. Thy all work at the Phoenix location where Walden was the manager up until she was hospitalized in March.

“Even then she would call us to ask how everything was going, and if we remembered this or that,” Brook said.

Pete’s has been a staple in her family, but also for the entire city of Tolleson. Everyone seems to have a special memory and favorite food from Pete’s.

Tolleson City Manager Reyes Medrano Jr. grew up two blocks north of Pete’s, and said it was a family tradition for his mother to send them to the restaurant when she didn’t feel like cooking.

“It was literally always the heart of Tolleson,” he said. “I remember being very young and always wanting to go sit at Pete’s with the older kids to watch the low riders drive back and forth.”

Mayor Adolfo Gamez recalls going to the restaurant during lunch en elementary school.

“We used to run to Pete’s, because it was packed,” he said.

Then, you could get two fish sandwiches for a quarter.

“It’s an institution in Tolleson,” Gamez said. “People actually go out of their way to come to Pete’s in Tolleson. It’s just something that hit and stuck, and people love it.”

Humble Beginnings

Pete Grant opened the fish and chips fast food restaurant in 1947 with only $900 to his name. He rented a small piece of land near 31st and Van Buren streets from a friend for $20 a month.

One his first day, Grant made a $12 profit. The Tolleson location opened two years later, and today the chain is made up of eight sites across the Valley run by two of his daughters, Foster and Kathy Adams.

Tolleson has the oldest original building, and it’s inadequate for the volume of traffic it sees, Foster said. So when the city approached them about making a swap for the adjacent Pride Park, the sisters decided to buy the land outright and create the first Super Pete’s.

It’s currently the third highest grossing location, but once the expansion is complete, the Tolleson site is expected to be No. 1, Foster said.

The new building which was designed by Synectic Design Inc., will have 40 picnic tables instead of four, go from 10 parking spots to 40 and almost double the number of fry cookers.

“That’s amazing for us,” Foster said. “It’s hard to explain but it’s going to crank it out a lot faster.”

The outdoor seating environment will also be better controlled with lighting and evaporative coolers, Foster said.

“Our customers are really going to appreciate what we’re going to do there,” she said.

State Rep Anna Solorio Tovar, D-District 13, grew up eating at Pete’s and now her two sons love it too, she said.

“That’s their favorite place to go and eat, as well,” she said. “My son says hopefully it’s not shut down for too long, because he’ll have Pete withdrawals.”

He won’t have to worry though, because there’s not expected to be and lapse in service. The owners plan to close doors on one building and open Super Pete’s the next day, Foster said.

The Arizona Republic

September 2011

Tolleson Pete's Fish & Chips growing to super eatery

By David Madrid

Ruth Walden worked for Pete's Fish & Chips for 56 years.

When she died last year, she was buried in a Pete's T-shirt and jacket and requested that everyone attending her funeral wear one too.

"And we did," said Pat Foster, a co-owner of Pete's Fish & Chips.

The company is now honoring Walden's service and loyalty by naming their biggest restaurant yet after her.

Pete's Fish & Chips in Tolleson will soon become Ruth Walden Super Pete's.

Walden managed the West Van Buren Pete's for decades.

Pete's, a family-owned business, is building a patio-style restaurant in Tolleson. It will be one of eight Pete's in the Valley.

The eatery will grow from a four-picnic-table little hole-in-the-wall restaurant to an almost 40-table modern patio restaurant with a drive-through window and 31 parking spots.

Foster owns Pete's with her sisters Ginnie Grant, Kathy Adams and Babs Sanders. Foster said after almost 64 years in the same building in Tolleson, it is time to grow.

"It's the biggest Pete's we've ever had," Foster said. "It's being constructed next to old Tolleson Pete's, and once we get it open, hopefully in the next month, we will then demolish the old Pete's and complete the building of the parking lot. The city has really gotten behind us."

An institution

Tolleson Mayor Adolfo Gámez said Pete's Fish & Chips is a Tolleson institution.

"When you talk to people about Tolleson, they say, 'Yeah - Pete's, right?' We're known for Pete's, and it's been there since I was a kid," Gámez said. "I always thought it was so cool. Back then they had monster burgers and Dixie dogs. I always thought the names were cool. Everybody looks forward to it (expansion), and we love that business. It's been good to our community. It's been a good neighbor."

The story of Pete's begins on Christmas 1946 when Peter McLain Grant Jr., known as Pete, moved to Arizona for health reasons. He came with his pregnant wife, Ruth, his golf clubs and $900 in his pocket.

Grant had a dream of opening a fish and chips restaurant after seeing such businesses throughout Europe when he served in the Navy in World War II.

He opened his first "Chip House" in 1947 near 31st Avenue and Van Buren Street, and he made $12 profit the first day. He opened three fish and chips eateries that first year, including the one in Tolleson.

The number of stores grew to eight, as Grant chose each location for its proximity to neighborhoods with small houses with families that had lots of kids.

In 1987, Grant was murdered by a man who robbed him of a valuable coin collection. Because of his daughters' persistence, the murderer was caught attempting to sell the coins.

Those daughters took over the business and own it to this day.

Sense of family and friendship

On Tuesday during lunch in Tolleson, a rush of customers descended on the place. Because of the construction of the new Pete's next door and the lack of parking, customers vied for parking spots, some even temporarily parking on Van Buren Street, running up to Pete's to grab their orders.

Customers shared the four picnic tables outside the little diner. The conversations invariably were about the new Pete's and the old Pete's and the number of years the customers have been coming there.

Frank Rojas, 41, a Tempe resident who was raised in Tolleson, stopped by because he was in the area. He said he always stops at Pete's whenever he is nearby. He regularly brings his mother there for lunch.

He remembers his parents bringing him to Pete's since he was 5 years old. In high school, he and friends would pool their money and go there for lunch.

"I love the shrimp," Rojas said. "It's the best I've ever had."

Rojas said he hates to lose the old Pete's.

"Change is hard for me," he said.

John Morrow, 47, of Avondale, stopped by to pick up an order to go. He is a newer customer who discovered Pete's six years ago. Now he comes at least once a month.

Welcome expansion

"It's needed, but I can't believe how big it is," Morrow said about the expansion. "They've really done well for themselves."

Curt Keesler, 42, is the manager of Pete's in Tolleson and has been for 17 years. The Gilbert resident has worked for Pete's for 27 years.

Once the Super Pete's is open, it will become the top performer of the eight restaurants, he said.

Keesler said the secret to employees' longevity at the company is simple.

"Most of the managers like myself, we've been here for years because we're treated well. We're not taken advantage of as employees. They want us to stay. They don't want us going anywhere else."

The secret to success?

"We have a fast, friendly, low-cost establishment," Keesler said. "It's definitely not Red Lobster, but it's something different, and we must be doing something right."

Foster and Gámez said that residents love Pete's so much that a couple of weeks ago 70 to 100 Tolleson High School alumni held a farewell reunion near Pete's before going over and eating there.

"To build it on a site like Tolleson, they are so excited," Foster said of customers. "If you look at our Facebook page, we have about 15,000 fans. For a small business, it's tough enough to be in business, but to last essentially 64 years . . . we're still here. We're doing fine."

Gámez sees the expansion of Pete's as the first of several positive redevelopment moves downtown.

The architecture of the Super Pete's matches the old mission-style architecture of Tolleson Union High School. The city's proposed downtown redevelopment project, La Entrada, which will include a Mexican grocer and an amphitheater, is being designed by the same architect as Pete's, Tempe-based Synectic Design Inc.

"Hopefully, it will spark some more downtown redevelopment," Gámez said. "We're going to look at downtown and redo it. We're going to do a lot of landscaping. We're going to spruce it up. Hopefully we can get the other businesses to step up and do improvements on their buildings and make it (downtown) look a lot better, and make it inviting to the community and other communities to come in and enjoy Pete's."

Gámez said he will miss the old Pete's building.

"But at the same time," he said, "you have to let go of the past so you can have a future."

East Valley Tribune

March 2012

After 65 years, Pete's Fish and Chips sticks to what it does best

By Mike Sakal

Fresh home from the war, newly married and needing to better recover from malaria and rheumatic fever he caught from a mosquito bite on a PT boat in the south Pacific, Peter Grant packed his car and trailer and left his home city of Indianapolis for the desert town of Phoenix.

He simply set out to follow his dream, a dream that included starting a fast-food business his name remains synonymous with: Pete’s Fish and Chips.

Today, Grant’s family is keeping the dream alive, for Pete’s sake, and marking the 65th anniversary of the roadside dining restaurant started March 23, 1947 in a small wooden shack with no running water in east Phoenix — a company that continues today with eight Valley locations and its Mesa business hub.

From that first Phoenix location at 3060 E. Van Buren Street, Grant sold fish and chips for 35 cents and a bottle of soda for a nickel. Leasing the property from a friend who owned a driving range — and whose garden hose he borrowed for water — Grant believed he “was on to something” when he made $12 profit the day he opened.

He called his first location Sports Fair Fish and Chips and later that year, he opened two more small stands and called them The Chip House. By the time he opened his fourth location in Tolleson, he began calling it Pete’s Fish and Chips. Grant later came to boast his business venture as “The Biltmore for the common man,” and expanded on the philosophy of “It’s better to make a quick nickel than it is a slow dime.”

Pete’s, with its cracker meal batter-breading on Pollack fish and shrimp, Monsterburgers and special sauce, has two East Valley locations, in addition to the downtown Mesa company headquarters. Pete opened one at 820 Mill Ave. in Tempe in 1950 and another at 145 E. Main St. in Mesa in 1951. The Tempe location now is at 1017 E. Apache Blvd., and the Mesa store — now in its third home — is currently at 22 S. Mesa Drive, at East Main Street.

Although Pete Grant died in 1987, not much else of the business has changed. In an era where many family-owned restaurants are shuttering their doors, Pete’s is in its fourth generation of family members active in the business, mirroring at least four generations of customers. Some say they keep returning for the sauce. Others says its for the freshness of the food and quick service.

“We are what we are,” said Kathy Adams of Mesa, one of four of Grant’s daughters who co-owns the restaurants with sisters Pat Foster, Babs Sanders and Ginnie Grant. They all began working for their dad when they were old enough to hold a potato in their hand, peeling piles of them and later worked their way up through the ranks. Adams’ daughter Casey Ruiz and sons Cody and Kyle Adams also work in the family business, as does her granddaughter, Hannah Adams, a 16-year-old junior at Mesa’s Mountain View High School.

“We’re fast food, but with reasonable prices, quality and good service,” Kathy Adams said. “That’s what we do, and we’re not going to change a thing. Our customers have been loyal to us, and we love them.”

“He loved being in downtowns,” Pat Foster said.

Pete’s Fish and Chips iconic neon sign portraying a large fish was first manufactured by Mesa’s own Paul Millett. It beckons like a beacon for regular customers who come to eat the daily lunch specials ranging from $1.60 for a hot dog and French fries to $8.50 for a 15-piece shrimp and chips dinner.

The crowds of people who dine at the picnic tables outside or cars that steadily pass through the drive-thru window are proof that Pete’s is popular place.

At age 84, Jesse Carpenter of Mesa is a regular who has been coming to the Mesa location since it opened, a few years after moving from Oklahoma in the wake of the Great Depression.

“I guess I like it here,” Carpenter said as he cracked a couple of jokes with longtime customers Dennis and Patty Wilson of Gilbert. “I love the fish and chips and that’s what I always get to eat. I think it’s really good.”

In fact, just last week, Pete’s downtown location made KPHO’s (CBS-5) Dean’s List for cleanliness and service — not an easy designation.

But Grant’s family knows all too well — it has overcome more difficult challenges.

In the late 1970s, when Pete’s experienced numerous robberies at his Phoenix locations, he declared war on all “hoodlums” by arming all of his managers with a handgun after training them how to shoot, according to past newspaper articles hanging on Pete’s office wall.

Sadly, on Dec. 14, 1987, Pete Grant was shot to death inside his apartment by a man going for a his coin collection, valued at $30,000, and bags full of special 1-ounce silver coins Grant had been handing out for the 40th anniversary of his business. But the tragedy did not end his family’s entrepreneurial spirit of keeping Pete’s going.

While serving in the European campaign during World War II, Grant acquired a love for eating fish. An avid golfer who played as an amateur in the British Pro-Am for 25 years, Grant also saw how big the fast-food fish industry was in England, further bolstering his decision to expand his business.

“Dad always said build a better mousetrap and they’ll beat a path to your door,” Ginnie Grant said.

The Wilsons said they’ve been to all of the Pete’s Fish and Chips locations, and love the sauce, but are most comfortable in Mesa where Pete’s is near a small park.

“It’s a nice setting here,” Patty Wilson said. “We always get the fish. We have a daughter who lives in Utah, and whenever she comes down here, she has to eat at Pete’s.”

On Friday, all of the Pete’s Fish and Chips locations throughout the Valley, will sell any size soda for 65 cents.

Pete’s other locations include a newly-renovated Ruth Walden Super Pete’s at 9309 W. Van Buren in Tolleson, named after the longtime manager who worked there for 57 years, one in Glendale, and four in Phoenix.

“We love to hear the stories about the business through the years from the customers, especially the college stories,” Babs Sanders said. “We’re a springboard for many high school students who get their first job here. Many people tell us if they wouldn’t have eaten here, they couldn’t have afforded to stay in college.”

“Pete’s Fish and Chips is one of God’s gifts to the earth,” said Jarred Hurt, 31, who moved to San Tan Valley from Oklahoma about two weeks ago and was eating at Pete’s for his second time. His brother, Tony Cutler, sister-in-law, Nina, and niece, Aamani, who is 5, like to eat here, “and now I do.”

Cutler added: “I’ve eaten her since I was a kid. There’s not many places around that have a wide variety of food that you can get quick and the sauce is awesome. And, it’s always fresh.”

What’s next for Pete’s?

“Nothing new,” Foster said. “We’ll stick with what we know and just focus on improving the locations we have.”

“What would dad say?,” Adams said. “I think he would be proud.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or

Check Out Petes Fish And Chips On YouTube

Home | History | Press | Letters | Awards | 1947 | Menu | Contact
Copyright 2010 Pete’s Fish & Chips | All Rights Reserved