A "Pass Key Special" is an Italian sausage sandwich that..."to many Puebloans, the mention of the (name) creates a craving that simply must be satisfied," as written by Majorie Cortez, a reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain.
Having a Pass Key for lunch, after the game, or just going out for a bite to eat has become so natural for Puebloans that it is one of the things they miss most when they move or leave the city for any extended period of time.
In 1952, John and Frank purchased the Pass Key Drive-In from their Uncle Sam and Aunt Teresa Pagano. "Having very little knowledge of the drive-in business, we were now businessmen learning from the ground up -- the hard way." according to John. "We had to do the 'car-hopping', waiting on tables the clean up, and cooking all by ourselves with a lot of help from our mother, Helen Pagano. But business began to grow and more help was needed", says John.
The boys hired their first employee, a "car-hop", and started the first generation of people who have worked at Pass Key's. some of the employees who have worked at the restaurant have children that followed in the foot steps by becoming cooks or waitresses.
The story of Pass Key's is a family affair. John and Frank's families were responsible for the hard work it took Pass Key's to become successful. Along with the assistance given to them by their parents, the owners' wives and children also became involved with the business. All of the children of both families started by peeling potatoes, waiting on tables and washing dishes.
The original restaurant was in the 600 block of east Abriendo Avenue where the freeway meets Abriendo. It started as a drive-in restaurant with "car hops" who took and carried orders back and forth to automobiles in the parking lot. The lot held approximately fifteen cars comfortably. Seating was available inside for only a few customers.
Then, in 1969, the new restaurant opened at 518 W. Abriendo Avenue, a block north of the original restaurant. The new one was designed by the owners with a larger indoor seating area and the "car-hop" service was eliminated. The menu was expanded in hopes that business would not drop. Business didn't drop, in fact it increased and customers had no complaints about the "new" concept.
Expansion continued and in June of 1989, John's family opened another Pass Key Restaurant on Highway 50 West. With more room, the new restaurant now provides more seating space, parking space and enough room for a salad bar. Again the menu has been expanded slightly but the Pass Key Specials are the main food items.
Families visiting their relatives will stop at the restaurant first and then call their family - "We just got into town. We're at Pass Key's eating, we'll be by in a while."
Thanks for your Patronage,
The Pagano Family