Owner of first and last 'Happy Chef' selling restaurant, future uncertain

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Just how long will that 36-foot-tall "Happy Chef" statue go on grinning?

It's hard to say, as the owner of the very first and now last-standing Happy Chef restaurant has put it up for sale, the Argus Leader reports.

The Mankato eatery opened in 1963 and became one of as many as 80 locations sprinkled across the Midwest, the paper says.

81-year-old owner Tom Frederick Sr. – one of three brothers who founded the restaurant more than half a century ago – told the Star Tribune he's selling it for $1.2 million to beat the onslaught of road construction he fears will scare customers off when it begins on Highway 169 next summer.

However, the restaurateur told the paper he doesn't think Happy Chef will close any time soon, though he's still not sure what will become of the smiling, spoon-brandishing chef out front.

Frederick's announcement comes just about eight months after he was inducted into the Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame.

Started by the Minnesota Restaurant Association in 2005, the honor recognizes the "legends" of the hotel and restaurant business and their contributions to the industry.

Other Hall of Fame members include Pat Murray of Murray’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis, Nick Mancini of Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul and Charles Pappas of the now-closed Michael’s Restaurant in Rochester.

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