knoxville international energy exposition (thankfully, it was called the 1982 world's fair, because, frankly, it sounds like an international nerd convention). it's interesting to note that the whole idea about having this type of a fair came from spokane, washington, where there was a world's fair in 1974. interesting because one of the most popular food items to come out of that fair was dreamed up by a couple from spokane.
they brought their little concept to the 82 fair, and what followed, was the sort of thing people only dream about.
initially called a petroleum belly (remember, the theme of the fair was energy), then shortened to petro belly, then just to petro, it consisted of a small frito bag, turned on its side, the top of the bag snipped off, then filled with delicious chili.
topped with grated cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped green onions and a dollop of sour cream, the petro garnered so much attention that folks lined up in massive lines to sample the treat, and petro's chili & chips was born.
petro's made a follow-up apprearance at the 1984 expo in new orleans to a similar response. people went crazy for the simple treat. and this is where the hubs and his brother come into the story. both guys, along with their parents had a venue at the 82 world's fair, and after their success there, came to new orleans to ride the wave of another lucrative fair. it was there they met up with the couple from spokane, and were surprised to learn that petro's hadn't been developed at all between fairs. it was then the wheels in their brains began to turn and they began to put in motion their quest to see petro's become a national brand (since mr. and mrs. spokane seemed disinterested in making that happen).soon after the end of the world's fair in new orleans, the hubs and his brother acquired the rights to develop petro's east of the mississippi and quickly went about putting the pieces into place. they secured a location, began developing their own logo'd bags in which to serve the petro, and developed the look and branding for the restaurant, which opened up on friday the 13th of sepetember 1985 in the new food court at west town mall in knoxville. people who had grown to love petro's at the fair were thrilled to have their coveted treat available anytime, and petro's enjoyed wild success their first two years in business.
the second petro's opened up in 1987 on the other side of town, and it was with this expansion that the brothers decided that the awkward bag/pouch had to go, and the petro began to be served in a barrel.
our partnership with UT has been a great relationship and just this fall we expanded into their university center in the rocky top cafe.
early this year, petro's partnered up with the pool's restaurant group in atlanta, ga, which will give us the expertice and financial backing to really begin to move forward. we're excited about the merger, as one of our partners is seth salzman, the co-founder of moe's. just after the partnership was announced, we sold our first two franchises and will be opening in crossville and cookville, tn in the next several weeks.
i've done the marketing and creative work since day one, although i worked in design for other companies like whittle communications until petro's could afford to hire me. we're excited about this new venture and just hope that the economic struggles of the past few years is about to be behind us and can look forward to a bright future.