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Pancho’s closing after 65 years

Another local landmark gone, popular dip to remain via retail sales

Another local landmark gone, popular dip to remain via retail sales

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Another local landmark gone, popular dip to remain via retail sales

By JOHN RECH

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During the hot-nachocheese- and-fondue era this restaurant became known for its trademark appetizer, a dish best served cold.

Pancho’s cheese dip proved so popular that it went into retail production. At one time, the signature snack became so popular, its Memphis plant could not keep up with demand, according to West Memphis resident and manager Tim Wallace. Unfortunately, here in 2021, nostalgia could not bolster sagging sales at its two remaining Memphis area restaurant locations. The company announced closing the pair of restaurant locations and a shift of its sole focus to the “best dip on the planet.”

The 65-year-old West Memphis landmark was set to close for good this weekend according to the White Station Road location

See PANCHO’S, page A2

Pancho waves good bye. Pancho’s restaurant proved to be a favorite of diners young and old for 65 years. The storied history of the West Memphis landmark was set to end at the close of business on Saturday. Rumors of the restaurant’s closing had been swirling for several days before the news was confirmed Monday afternoon.

Photo by John Rech PANCHO’S

From page A1

Manager Merdis White. White announced the move in an article Monday in the Memphis Commercial. White said the last day was set for Saturday and the owners will focus on the Pancho’s Cheese Dip business.

The company history online said a surprise high school graduation trip to Mexico inspired it all.

“When Louis Jack Berger graduated from high school, his father, Morris, surprised him with a trip to Mexico. Not only did they enjoy the trip, they discovered _avors, colors and taste sensations that inspired them to open the very rst Pancho’s in 1956 in West Memphis, Arkansas.”

Diners and health regulators toady may nd the local landmark eatery’s humble beginnings almost unbelievable.

“The restaurant had packed dirt _oors and a live tree salvaged during construction was the centerpiece,” according to the company history. “About nine months after opening, the restaurant was destroyed by an 18-wheeler, but you couldn’t keep this family down long. They had a night club at the current West Memphis Pancho’s location called the Plantation Inn. They tore down the nightclub and built the new Pancho’s.”

The dark red crazy-brick facade and Sombrero wearing bucktoothed cartoon Mexicano stereotype on the sign marked the spot at 3600 East Broadway ever since. Location, location, location, the restaurant stood as the eastern gate to West Memphis on U.S. Highway 70 routed right by the restaurant coming off the Harahan Bridge, even before the Interstate Highway system. Panchos drew customers from all around, including the Bluff City.

During the early pandemic the State of Arkansas ordered restaurants closed. Panchos responded by investing in the community serving to-go boxes weekly. The restaurant reinvested in itself with a well appointed remodeling during the business restrictions. Neither the nostalgia nor the investments could sustain the restaurant business. The restaurant claimed continuation of its original recipes to the very end.

Some of those proved favorites among Pancho’s fans. A Facebook survey on the West Memphis & Neighbors group page listed some time tested favorites of the restaurant faithful. Brett Johnson hoped the closing was all fake news.

The trademark cheese dip and unique green dressing stood out as favorites. Ricky Web, Jr. hoped the Acapulco dish would survive as a frozen dinner entre. The loss off the Mexican pizza and cheese and onion enchiladas was mourned repeatedly. Michelle Hogard Malone enjoyed the shrimp salad, the sampler and the Pancho Verde. Connie Overall touted the Enchilada Grande Dinner. Brandon M. Goodwin remembered the _autas with a bowl of taco sauce and sour cream.

The closing stood as a stark reminder that fast food dominated dining demand in West Memphis. Chain restaurants with drive through windows stood atop the A& P tax producers, dwarng sales of dine in spots.

“We could prevent all our local restaurants from closing if we supported their business,” said Becka Boo on Facebook.

“Has anyone ever thought about having an event to support local businesses and food establishments?” asked Jeremy Taylor. “Pick a day out of the week and sup[port a local mom and pop food establishment or even a small store.”

Others saw it coming and posted on social media.

“Honestly, the past two or three times I’ve been there it was horrible,” said Kevin R. Newsome.

“That place had been going down for years,” said Jerimy Simpson. “If you knew what went on there you wouldn’t eat there anyways.”

Finding the chilled cheese has been hit and miss because production hasn’t kept up with demand at local grocers. Fear not, Pancho’s Cheese Dip is shipped in boxes with eight containers of dip. You may order any combination of dips that you choose as long as you select 8 containers. Pancho’s Dip is shipped frozen and is shipped via FedEx for Next Day or Second Day delivery only. Pancho’s Dip must be refrigerated or frozen immediately upon receipt according to the company web page.

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