Mo's Restaurants is an American restaurant chain located on the Oregon Coast and headquartered in Newport, Oregon. Mo's are named after their original owner Mohava "Mo" Niemi, who was once described as "the stuff of legend in Newport".
Mo's restaurants serve primarily seafood and have long been noted for their New England style clam chowder, their own locally raised Yaquina Bay oysters and for their casual and friendly atmosphere.
Mo's first opened on the Newport bay front in 1946 as "Freddie & Mo's"—a 24-hour restaurant that served the local loggers and fisherman such fare as spaghetti and steaks. Niemi's business partner Freddie Kent became ill a few years later and Niemi bought out her partner's shares of the restaurant. In the following years Mo's served more and more seafood, the clam chowder recipe evolved over time as the cooks would vie with each other to produce a better version.
Over time Mo's would become a favorite, not just of locals, but of tourists and celebrities as well. Mo's second husband, retired fisherman Kaino "Dutch" Niemi along with friends often gathered at a table contributing to the "family" atmosphere of the restaurant.
Great-granddaughter of Mo, Gabrielle McEntee-Wilson recalls in an interview "Granny Mo" saying (in regards to Mo's popularity) "The hippies discovered Mo's" during the 'sixties." According to McEntee-Wilson "It (Mo's) wasn't a concept—it grew on its own and changed over time."
Henry Fonda, Paul Newman and other cast members of the film Sometimes a Great Notion (based on a novel by Ken Kesey about a dysfunctional family of Oregon coast loggers) ate there during location filming. Mo appears in one scene of the film as an extra. The scene was filmed in Newport's Bayhaven Inn, (renamed the The Snag in the film). Mo and her father once owned the Inn in the early 1940s.
Oregon Governor Tom McCall and Senator Mark Hatfield and other Oregon politicians ate there as well. In 1973 Audrey McCall, wife of the Governor, arranged for the spouses of the Governors attending the Western Governors' Conference to have lunch at Mo's on the waterfront.
The original Newport Mo's has an unusual front wall for a restaurant. One day a customer accidentally left her car in forward gear instead of reverse while leaving and crashed through the front wall. Mo consoled the woman, saying, "Well, we'll just put in a garage door so we can open it and you can drive in anytime if that's what you want to do". On warm sunny days the door is opened transforming Mo's into a sidewalk cafe. The door itself, pictured at right, remains basically unchanged since its installation and features a picture on its interior showing a woman driving her car through the door, an alarmed look on her face.
Over the years Niemi opened additional Mo's restaurants, one across the street from the original in Newport overlooking the bay (Mo's Annex) and Mo's West at Otter Rock. The original Mo's was also remodeled and expanded several times, in addition to the restaurant the building now houses a clam chowder factory which provides the base for the restaurants. It is also sold online and is distributed to grocery stores in 14 states. Over the course of a year, the factory will make over 500,000 pounds of fresh chowder. The factory will process one ton of bacon a week and one ton of potatoes per day.
The original restaurants and chowder factory are family owned and operate as Mo's Enterprises. In 1970 Mo partnered with another Newport business owner Tom Becker to purchase an oyster farm and formed a company that would become known as Newport Pacific Corporation. This company now operates additional Mo's in Florence, Lincoln City and Cannon Beach. Mo Niemi died in 1992. Several of Niemi's surviving family serve on the board of directors of Newport Pacific.
In 2001, Cindy McEntee, owner of Mo's Enterprises, was named the Small Business Administration's Small Businessperson of the Year for Oregon and was the first runner-up (of four nationwide nominees) for SBA's National Business Person of the Year. She was lauded during the Oregon presentation "for continuing a tradition of great food and outstanding generosity to employees, customers and community. (McEntee) demonstrates that commitment to serving fellow human beings is the path to business success".
Rogue Ales, an Oregon craft brewery, also headquartered in Newport uses a portrait of Mo on one of its Ale label designs (Half-E-Weizen, originally named Mo Ale) and they include this dedication on each bottle: Brewed in honor of Mo & Dutch Niemi whose spirit indelibly shapes the vibrant daily life of the Newport waterfront and our entire community. Niemi was instrumental in bringing Rogue to Newport."
Notes and references
- Jaffe, Matthew The lure of the harbor town Sunset Magazine September 2002
- MO' BETTER CLAM CHOWDER, The Oregonian, October 1, 1999Ah, but the chowder and the atmosphere...simple blend of flavor and place is what food means: something comfortingly commonplace, from someplace we hold dear. Something to be repeated again and again. Something ordinary but also true and reliable.
- Chapman, Elizabeth Mo's celebrates 60 years of chowder in the community Newport News-Times October 3, 2007
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. p. 34. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- Sovereigns of Themselves Oregon History Online Volume III
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. pp. 67–68. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. pp. 70–71. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. pp. 53–55. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. p. 35. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- Mo's Restaurants Files Trademark Infringement Suit Against Moe's 'There is only one Mo's!' Business Wire 2005-06-29
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. pp. 88–89. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- McEntee, Cindy (2004). Mo's On the Waterfront—Tradition Turned Legend. Wilsonville, Oregon: Best Seller Books. p. 46. ISBN 1-887542-19-1.
- SBA to honor owner of Mo's Restaurants Portland Business Journal April 19, 2001
- http://www.rogue.com/brews.html#halfaweizen Half-e-Weizen (formerly Mo Ale), was inspired by, and dedicated to, Mo and Dutch Niemi, real people inspiring a real product. Mo was a restaurateur and raconteur whose clam chowder is world-famous; Dutch a leader by example for coastal fisherman.
- Moen, Alan (August 1, 1999). "Rogue Warrior: An Interview with Jack Joyce". Beer Notes. Retrieved 2007-09-19. "NB: But why Newport? There must be a story about that. JJ: My partner was the director of the Port of Portland. His counterpart in the Port of Newport had a prominent citizen, Mo Niemi - Mo's Clam Chowder, and she wanted a bar downstairs and her kids were smarter than that. They didn't want to run it. So I came down to tell Mo we were brewers, not publicans. In the Back where the pool room is now was a garage where they stored her kid's antique cars. So I said, hell, we can make a brewery out of this... she was a very persuasive woman. BN: Mo really talked you into it, then? JJ: Well, yeah, and she made it fair... All we had to do was hang that godawful picture of her in her French bathtub - naked. NB: That was part of the deal? JJ: That was the deal. Ever take that down, and the rent goes up!"