'Pancake Man' Kenneth Pruitt diesWell-known restaurateur Kenneth H. Pruitt, who became known as the "Pancake Man" after opening his first Ken's House of Pancakes in Menlo Park in 1959, died April 13. He was 83.
His Walker's Wagon Wheel was an important meeting place during tech boom
A native of Shawnee, Oklahoma, Pruitt opened his first restaurant, a little place called "The Shack" in Palo Alto, in 1953. Six years later, on Dec. 10, 1959, he opened Ken's House of Pancakes at 888 El Camino Real in Menlo Park — the first of several. Others were opened in Millbrae, Mountain View, Campbell, Vacaville and Hilo, Hiwaii.
Ten years after opening the Menlo Park "Ken's," he sold the restaurant to his nephew, Jim Cunningham. The restaurant closed in 1999.
In addition to the pancake houses, Pruitt took over Walker's Wagon Wheel in Mountain View, which became known as the site of many high-level, high-tech business meetings in the early stages of Silicon Valley's tech boom. When the Tech Museum was built in San Jose, Pruitt was asked to donate some Wagon Wheel memorabilia.
Other restaurants he ran over the years include the Melody Inn Pizza & Pipes in Los Altos, Doran's Supper Club in Belmont, Dubby's and Ken's Cabaret in Millbrae, Tio Pancho's Mexican Restaurant in Vacaville, and The Old Mill and Munchies Copper Cooker in Arizona.
Despite having only an eighth-grade education and losing his parents at a young age, Pruitt faced life's challenges with a strong and independent spirit, family members said. He was primarily self-taught, but had a strong ambition as well as a natural business sense, they said. He benefited from the hard work and loyalty of many long-term employees, they added.
Pruitt's wife of 35 years, Eileen, died in 1987. In 2002, he married Janette. He is survived by Janette, his son Dan Pruitt, daughter Dana Willson, brother Jack Pruitt, sister Gladys Pruitt, three grandchildren and a great-grandson.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, at Spangler Mortuary, 399 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos.