Puyallup Staple Closing Its Doors After 11 years

Sparks Firehouse Deli in Puyallup, Wash. has closed, but its legacy will be remembered for long after

Tanner Pierce, Sports Editor



That is what the Sparks Firehouse Deli was all about. Not just the delicious tater tots and sandwiches.


When Chris Johnston opened the Puyallup staple back in 2009, he said he had the goal of replicating a part of his childhood for his own kids.


“When it came up I envisioned a place like Shakey’s,” Johnston said. “I wanted to recreate my experiences when I was growing up with Shakey’s.” 


Shakey’s Pizza Parlor was a popular spot for families to hang out in Tacoma, where Johnston grew up, especially after Friday night lights. Johnston knew the Sparks Firehouse Deli, with its optimal location, could offer some of those same memories for the next generation.

Sparks Firehouse Deli from the street

“Because of the proximity to the stadium it would be even better,” Johnston said.  “You wouldn’t have to drive over there; you could just walk right on over.” 


In no time the Deli became a safe spot for families. The friendly staff and emphasis on community allowed families to feel comfortable and like they were a part of something bigger than themselves.


How did the Deli achieve that feeling of comfort over the last decade?


That’s because putting the community first was at the forefront of everything they did.


“I think it worked because I put the community over profit. I never owned that thing with the idea that I’m going to make a killing,” Johnston said. “I owned that thing because I wanted to have a place that not only was a safe haven, but a place to make everyone better — in terms of the schools, and the communities, and the programs that we’ve sponsored.”

One thing the Deli was known for was its love for promoting and supporting local sports programs. Not only was it the place to be on a Friday night before or after games across the street at Sparks Stadium, but they sparked fire amongst the schools to rally around their teams. 


The Sparks City Trophy is given each year to the high school football team that came out on top amongst the three high schools in the Puyallup School District. This trophy was created nine years ago by Johnston, and is still a staple amongst the three teams. 

Puyallup High School football team with the Sparks City Trophy

It wasn’t just Friday Nights at Sparks Stadium when the presence of the Deli was felt though.

When you enter Paul B. Hanawalt Pavilion at Puyallup High School on a game night for the boys basketball team, you can look to the upper corner and see hanging on the rails something that represents maybe one of the most impactful things Sparks Firehouse Deli has done. The banner that reads: “Wing Night: If the Vikings score 80 points or more, everyone in attendance will receive a coupon for free wings at the Sparks Firehouse Deli.”


“The wing night was crazy,” Puyallup High School boys basketball coach Scott Campbell said.  “I mean the first couple years when it was new it was a little bit of a bigger deal but it created controversy. There were coaches and teams who didn’t like it, but the overwhelming excitement and support for it in our school and our community I thought was awesome.”


Sparks Deli was also a big supporter of the Puyallup Viking Hoops program overall, from supporting Viking Elite, the school’s youth basketball feeder program, to the summer basketball camps, in addition to the 80-point wing night. This support helped create an atmosphere that attracted people to the games and made them feel valued 


“Not only did I see an impact on the teams or the kids, I think it had a huge impact on our school and the student body in generating excitement for the program and coming to the games,”  Campbell said. “It gave them another reason to come watch and stay until the end of the game.”


The community that the Deli supported and the culture they created for sports in the Puyallup area are what made it such a special place for everyone who walked through their doors.


“I’ve always lived by the adage, how big of a footprint did you leave,” Johnston said. “And I think that the footprint that the Deli left is a pretty big one.