Tony Packo's Cafe
|Industry||Restaurant, pre-packaged foods|
Number of locations
|Bob Bennett, Tony Packo Jr.|
|Revenue||$5 Million (2003)|
Number of employees
|Parent||TP Foods LLC|
Tony Packo's Cafe is a restaurant that started in the Hungarian neighborhood of Birmingham, on the east side of Toledo, Ohio, at 1902 Front Street. The restaurant became famous when it was mentioned in several M*A*S*H episodes and is noted for its signature sandwich and large collection of hot dog buns signed by celebrities.
During the depression in 1932, Tony Packo used a $100 loan to open his shop, which originally sold only sandwiches and ice cream. In 1935, the Packo family purchased the current wedge-shaped building on the corner of Front and Consaul streets next to the Maumee River, which includes the former Consaul Tavern.
Tony's signature "sausage-and-sauce sandwich" on rye was first made when he decided to add a spicy chili sauce to his sandwiches for more flavor. Eventually, his creation became known as the "Hungarian hot dog", even though no such thing had come from the Old Country. The dish quickly became popular and the cafe is now billed as "the place where man bites dog". The "hot dog" is really a Hungarian sausage called kolbász, not unlike the Polish kielbasa, about twice the diameter of a conventional hot dog, and slicing the sausage in half yields about the same amount of meat.
Nancy Packo Horvath took control of the business in 1962 when her father Tony Packo became seriously ill. Founder Tony Packo died in 1963 at 55 years of age. In 1968, Ms. Horvath's brother Tony Packo Jr. joined the company at age 20. The company had a long period of growth in the late 1960s under the leadership of the siblings.
The Packos started in the packaged food business in 1980 after Merco Foods agreed to carry a line of pickles.
In July 2002, Ms. Horvath and her son Robin Horvath (himself a Packo's vice president), sued Mr. Packo and his son Tony Packo III for libel, breach of duty, and trying to force her out of the business. A week later, Mr. Packo and his son counter-sued to dissolve the business claiming that as each family owned 50 percent of the company they were at an impasse. The families settled their dispute in October 2002 by adding an impartial third person to the company's board of directors. Mr. Packo said the problem occurred due to having no formalized succession plan in place. Soon after the dispute was settled, Ms. Horvath was diagnosed with cancer and died on 23 April 2003.
Robert G. Bennett bought Tony Packo's, Inc., in October 2011 for $5.5 million in a court-ordered sale. Bennett died in May 2013.
When actor Burt Reynolds visited Toledo in 1972, he made a stop at the restaurant on the suggestion of Tony's daughter, Nancy. Reynolds was the first big name to eat at Packo's, and he also began the tradition of "bun signing" when he inscribed his signature on a Packo hot dog bun. Ever since then, celebrities who visit the restaurant sign a "bun"—now a foam, air-brushed look-alike—and have it placed on the walls of Packo's.
Tony Packo's Cafe gained world-wide fame when M*A*S*H character Maxwell Klinger, who was played by Toledo native Jamie Farr, made mention of the restaurant in six episodes. He first said in a 1976 episode, "If you're ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo's got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs." In one episode, the hospital unit ordered a batch of sausage casings from Packo's to use in a blood-filtering machine (a crude artificial kidney). In another, a wounded soldier from Toledo sends Klinger a shipment of Packo's hot dogs as a thank-you gift. Packo's was also mentioned in the two-and-a-half hour final episode. The restaurant displays several M*A*S*H mementos on the premises.
- Zimmermann, George; Carol Zimmermann (2009). Ohio Off the Beaten Path. p. 187. ISBN 0-7627-5051-0.
- "Packo's Caf co-owner nurtured legacy". Toledo Blade. April 24, 2003. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
- "Future of Cpl. Klinger's beloved hot dogs in doubt - Yahoo". news.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
- Zaborney, Mark (May 9, 2013). "Robert G. Bennett, 1937-2013: Restaurant exec bought Packo's chain". Toledo Blade. Retrieved April 29, 2018.
- Zurcher, Neil (2008). Ohio Oddities: A Guide to the Curious Attractions of the Buckeye State. Grey and Company. p. 59. ISBN 9781598510478.