205 N. Goose Creek Blvd.
Today: O’Reilly Auto Parts (approximate location)
Yesterday: Track Stars, 1987-1993
On the menu: Irrelevant, because it was delivered by a furry robot
When native Goose Creekers turn to the internet for answers about a restaurant they vaguely remember from their youths, they often phrase their queries apologetically, as though they half suspect they might have imagined Track Stars.
“Nobody I know seems to remember this place,” one Reddit poster lamented.
Yet when Jim Wood in 1987 launched Track Stars at the Berkeley Square Shopping Center, he understandably assumed nobody would forget his collection of $15,000 remote-controlled robots. Wilbur the Coyote, Dilly the Lion and Frieda the Frog were affixed to a track that encircled a dining room with swinging bears overhead; the track-bound creatures were responsible for delivering customers’ pizza pies.
“They can sing and be a ham,” said Wood, a former shipyard worker who with his brother-in-law opened the fifth Track Stars in the country.
Fusing furry characters and pizza was already a proven idea when Pizza Peddler, an Iowa-based company, introduced the Track Stars concept. Atari’s Nolan Bushnell, dually inspired by a decade-old pizza parlor with a Wurlitzer organ and the talking birds in Disneyland’s Tiki Room, in 1977 launched Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater. (In Bushnell’s mind, the restaurant was going to be called “Coyote Pizza,” but the first walk-around costume that came in the mail looked more like a rat.) A nearly identical chain, ShowBiz Pizza Place, debuted three years later.
For reasons that are no longer immediately clear, Pizza Peddler assigned different names to its pizza arcades in different places. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the restaurant was known as Gigglebee’s. In Sioux City, Iowa, it was just plain Pizza Peddler. But Wilbur the Coyote rode the rails at all of them.
“We like Wilbur. He delivers pizza on a cart, doesn’t he?” Aggie Ackerman in 2008 told a Sioux Falls TV news affiliate covering the closure of Gigglebee’s, where Wilbur made his last stand. (Track Stars was disassembled in a bank-ordered auction almost immediately after its 1993 relocation to Summerville.)
Last year, The Argus Leader caught up with the man who bought the trademarks associated with Gigglebee’s, including Wilbur. “Wilbur is on a cruise in the Pacific, getting a suntan,” he reassured longtime fans of the rolling coyote. “He needs suntan lotion.”
— Hanna Raskin