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Hobo Joe’s Third Act

Driving along the main street in Buckeye, Arizona, you will see a modern post office and city hall nestled among numerous pre-war era commercial buildings. Behind a small restaurant called Cafe 25:35 stands a most unusual sight: a 22 foot tall fiberglass statue of a vagabond named Hobo Joe. The story of who he is and why he is here is far more interesting than I ever could have imagined. This is the story of Hobo Joe, told in three acts.

ACT ONE: The Rise and Fall of Herbert L. Applegate
The story of Hobo Joe begins with Herbert Louis Applegate, born on March 26, 1926, in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating from Shaw High School in Cleveland, Herb took restaurant – management courses from several universities and during World War II served in the Navy.

Mr. Applegate helped found several pancake houses in Detroit and once owned a restaurant in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1963 at the age of 37, he and his wife May moved to Phoenix, intending to retire from the restaurant business.

The Start of Hobo Joe’s

Though he had relocated to Phoenix, it wasn’t long before Applegate found himself back in the restaurant business. In 1965, he founded Hobo Joe’s Coffee Shops with two business partners, Joseph F. Martori and Robert W. Goldwater, brother of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Applegate owned 50% of the restaurant, with Martori and Goldwater each having 25% ownership.

Herb wanted Hobo Joe’s to be a family-friendly coffee shop that served hot meals at affordable prices. The concept was similar to Bob’s Big Boy, a Southern California-based chain of coffee shops which expanded to the Phoenix area in the mid-1950s. To that end, Applegate designed a fictional character to be the namesake for the new restaurant. Applegate told the Arizona Republic: “I could see Hobo Joe clearly in my mind, yet I couldn’t get him down on paper.” Continue reading >

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