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Owner of longtime Grand Forks restaurant Italian Moon plans to sell

Sandwiched by grandparents Donna and John Schaffer of Grand Forks Wednesday evening, Kyler Matson, 6, of East Grand Forks reaches across an Italian Moon tabletop to swipe some ketchup off his father Jeff Matson's plate. The Schaffers have been patrons of the Italian Moon since they started dating in the early 70s. Photo by Darren Gibbins, Special to the Herald1 / 2
Italian Moon2 / 2

The owner of one of Grand Forks’ oldest homegrown restaurants has decided after four decades in business to sell the Italian Moon and retire.


“Forty one years is a long time, and I’m 75 years old,” said Ken Towers. “Most people retire long before 75.”

“The Moon,” as it is known around town, dates back to 1965, and Towers later bought it from owner Keith Moon. Since then the business has been a Grand Forks mainstay selling pizza, pasta and Italian, Mexican and American dinners.

Over the years, for multiple generations of area diners, Towers’ Italian Moon has earned a place among the city’s more venerable restaurants, along with the Red Pepper and the now-closed Bronze Boot. It also garnered numerous mentions in Marilyn Hagerty Eatbeat columns in the Herald.

“The Italian Moon is a homey, unpretentious and sometimes congested type of place,” she wrote in 2007. “If you can’t find what you want to eat on this menu, you’re probably not hungry.”

The original restaurant was located at 11th Avenue North and Washington Street, but has been at 810 S. Washington since about 1969.

“It’s been very good to us in the 40 years and four months that we’ve had it,” Towers said.

The business is listed with Dakota Commercial for $1.1 million. The building was constructed in 1960, but Towers has made several updates recently, including a new roof in 2013.

He has also owned Wendy’s restaurants in town, now run by his son, Brad.

“I’m down to one restaurant,” he said.

He said he still enjoys the daily work of running the business but also wants to be able to slow down, as most of his peers have.

“I love doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Towers said he hopes new owners will keep running the Moon as it has been over the years, and he credits his managers and staff of 60 for making the past year one of its most successful yet.

But if Towers does not find the right buyer, he said he would even reconsider his retirement.

“If I don’t sell it, we’ll keep running it,” he said.

Christopher Bjorke

Christopher Bjorke is the content editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He first worked for the Herald in 1997 and most recently since 2011. His jobs at the Herald have included covering local government, state politics, business and economics, and the health care industry. 

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