Keep clam.

If you chuckled a bit as you read the headline, chances are good that you know the Ivar legend in Washington. Yes, Ivar’s is a locally loved chain of restaurants and quasi-fast food places in the state. But there really was an Ivar, and he was one of the state’s true characters, tireless promoter, folk singer and of course, restaurateur.

Where does one start with the tale of two Ivars?

It’s probably best to start at the beginning. Ivar Haglund was a pioneer in the true sense of the word. Well, his parents were. His grandparents bought the land that is Alki Point directly from one of the founding fathers of Seattle, Doc Maynard.

Raised with music all around him, Ivar originally thought of becoming a Western folk singer. But the ever restless entrepreneurial spirit kept calling him to other pursuits. In 1938, he opened Seattle’s first aquarium, sitting in front on a stool performing songs about all the attractions waiting inside.

Acres of Clams followed in 1946. It is still there today, serving up delicious seafood and traditional favorites on Pier 54, which Ivar bought. Ever the lover of puns, plays on words and eye-widening promotion, Ivar was a marketing whiz. He took advantage of every opportunity he could think of to promote his brand, from singing in his trademark TV commercials to telling people to Keep Clam. His menu warned husbands that they had to get permission to drink a third cup or “Ever-Rejuvenating Clam Nectar.” And in the summer, it wasn’t unusual to see the Creature from the Black Lagoon, doing a piano lounge act on a motorized barge along the waterfront.

Ivar’s the restaurant

Ivar passed away in 1985. But he left behind an institution, the many Ivar’s restaurants. Whether you visit Acres of Clams on the waterfront, the Indian longhouse replica known as the Salmon House, Ivar’s in Mukilteo or the many smaller Ivar’s in towns around the state and even at the ballparks and Sea-Tac International airport, you can still enjoy Ivar’s simple idea that grew into an employee owned and operated institution. And if you ever find the seat next to bronzed Ivar sitting in front of Acres of Clams on Seattle’s waterfront, don’t miss the chance to sit a spell and meet one of Washington’s pioneers and truly unique characters and entrepreneurs.

Learn more about Ivar’s Restaurants.

To get a local’s look at Ivar’s, here’s one of their signature commercials, a takeoff on Dances With Wolves.