Former Sambo’s pays homage to family legacy
When Chad Stevens decided to rename Sambo’s amid community backlash fueled by the Black
Lives Matter movement, he wanted the new restaurant to honor his grandfather’s legacy.
Mr. Stevens took the old Sambo’s sign down in early June and temporarily replaced it with a
“Peace and Love,” sign. The sign now bears the name Chad’s, written in the same font as the old Sambo’s.
“I’m paying homage to my family that created that name. Now those same letters say Chad’s
with a palm tree,” Mr. Stevens said.
Mr. Stevens’ grandfather, Sam Battistone Sr., founded the original Sambo’s, at 216 W. Cabrillo
Blvd., with partner Newell Bohnett in 1957.
At its height, the Sambo’s chain boasted over 1,000 locations nationwide from the 1950s
through the 1970s. The chain was famous for its 10-cent cups of coffee and for its
connection to the 1899 book “The Story of Little Black Sambo” by Helen Bannerman.
The story follows a dark-skinned South Indian boy named Sambo and his confrontation with a
pack of tigers.
The founders said the restaurant’s name was derived from their names, Sam and Bohnett, but
they used characters and themes from the story in the restaurant’s design and promotional
Most Sambo’s locations were rebranded by the early 1980s, but overexpansion and
mismanagement forced the chain to declare bankruptcy in 1981.
The rebrand of the Cabrillo Boulevard Sambo’s marks the end of the restaurant chain.
Mr. Stevens founded the first Chad’s restaurant, a fine-dining experience located at 625
Chapala St., in 1992 and took over operations at Sambo’s from his uncles in 1995.
He closed the first Chad’s in 2008 to spend more time with his young children.
“Since we had such a great following at Chad’s, we thought we’d bring back the old name. We
decided to put the Chad’s’ up with the same font design of the Sambo’s font and respect what
my grandfather created over the years. The Sambo’s name just doesn’t work in today’s
environment,” Mr. Stevens said.
Mr. Stevens said Chad’s will remain an affordable family friendly breakfast cafe, but he plans to
rejuvenate the menu with fresh high-quality ingredients.
“I wanna be a family restaurant with quality food and freshness and attention to detail. It will be
as the quality of Sambo’s was, but even better because I need to step up my game. When
people think of Chad’s, they think of gourmet. So, we’ll keep the food simple, but in a good
quality manner,” Mr. Stevens said.
Mr. Stevens continued that he removed the old Sambo’s memorabilia from the restaurant and
placed it in storage.
“We would like to hold onto it for our own use. This has come at us so fast and crazy that we’re
putting it away and at a later date we’re gonna figure out what to do with it,” Mr. Stevens said.
He noted that Sambo’s was a part of Santa Barbara’s history and said some of the items may
have a place in a local museum.