The last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Lake George, New York, which once belonged to the United State’s oldest and largest franchise chain, has closed for good, putting an end to a nearly 100-year-old American tradition.
Standing for more than 70 years, locals were hopeful the restaurant would reopen during the Memorial Day weekend as the start of summer normally brought tourists to visit the historic site, but reality set in when the Howard Johnson’s doors remained shut.
‘Lake George is officially dead,’ Alyssa Kelly, of the HoJoLand fan group who has been documenting the restaurant’s struggle for years, wrote on Facebook. ‘Plastic tables, chairs removed. All memorabilia removed (that is not original, that stays with building). Cobwebs on the door.’
The Lake George location was the one of three Howard Johnson’s that had survived into the 2010s, and although it was no longer affiliated with the franchise, it was the last to bear its name and iconic orange roof after the Lake Placid, New York, location closed in 2015 and the Bangor, Maine, site shut down in 2016.
The last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Lake George, New York, did not reopen after the Memorial Day weekend
Fans of the iconic restaurant franchise found the Lake George site empty and up for sale for $10
The Lake George restaurant had all its memorabilia and plastic tables and chairs removed
The tablecloths were stripped from traditional wooden tables that once greeted customers in the summer
Although it was no longer affiliated with the franchise, the restaurant was the last to bear its name and iconic orange roof
The Lake George Howard Johnson’s opened in 1953 as the popular franchise enjoyed more than 1,000 locations nationwide, often seen as a popular stop for family’s taking summer road trips.
Located near the Adirondack Mountains, the Lake George Howard Johnson was the spot to stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner while on the way to tourist location, but the restaurants began waning in popularity by the end of the 1980s.
The New York location had eventually turned into the Lake George Family Restaurant in 2015 while still bearing the Howard Johnson name, but it ran into trouble when its operator, Johnathan LaRock, was charged with sexually harassing at least 15 female employees, some as young as 14.
As the restaurant changed ownership, it saw dwindling customer base and sporadic open hours until it was eventually put on the market. Exit Reality is currently listing the 7,500-square foot property at $10.
Many of those who frequented the restaurant throughout the decades lamented the closure and the end of the restaurant chain icon on Facebook.
The first Howard Johnson’s opened in 1925, in Quincy Massachusetts, and the restaurant gained fame for its 28-flavor ice cream selection using butter fat
Popularity soared for the food and ice cream soared, and Johnson’s opened its first franchise in 1932, in Orleans (pictured)
It quickly became a part of American culture as it opened more than 1,000 locations by the early 1970s
The closing of the Lake George location comes nearly six years after the Bangor, Maine, site (pictured) closed.
The Maine location had seen more business (above) compared to the Lake George restaurant to the latter falling into difficulties after its operator was charged with sexually harassing more than 15 female employees, some as young as 14
Deborah Fallon wrote: ‘This is a sad loss. They serve so many people at an affordable price. Guess as an affluent society we’re no longer concerned about the average American family!’
Liz Knezvoich said she had been there in January, writing, ‘Had an amazing pot roast there at the end of this past January! Great service too!’
Dave Hood, lamented that he and his wife – who were both former Howard Johnson’s employees – couldn’t eat there one last time.
‘My wife and I stayed in Lake George a week ago and were hoping to eat there. We both used to work for Ron Butler at the Lake Placid HoJo’s, and I used to manage for the NY State division of the corporate restaurants in the 70s,’ he wrote.
David Robinson, another Howard Johnson’s regular, wrote: ‘So sad to see an end of an era. We used to eat there all the time when staying at my uncles lake house on Assembly Point, back in the 60s and 70s.’
Patrons took to Facebook to regret the loss of the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant
Howard Deering Johnson opened his first location in 1925, in Quincy Massachusetts, and the restaurant gained fame for its 28-flavor ice cream selection using butter fat.
Although Johnson first expanded by opening an adjacent ice cream stand where he reportedly sold 14,000 cones, the popularity of the Howard Johnson’s named allowed him to franchise his business.
Coupled with the expansion of the American Interstate Highway system, Howard Johnson’s franchises quickly popped up in the East Coast and across the nation, typically placed near gas stations to take advantage of traveling American’s looking for a place to stop and eat.
By 1954, the company opened its first motor lodge as it expanded into the motel business, which is still alive today as the Howard Johnson Inns, operated by Wyndham Hotels.
The restaurant eventually peaked in the early 1970s with more than 1,000 restaurants and 500 motor lodges, CNN Business reported.
The iconic chain spread quickly out of Massachusetts, eventually reaching Times Square in 1955 (pictured)
The explosion of popularity came as the American Interstate Highway expanded across the nation, allowing the franchise to take advantage of travelers looking for meals on the road. Pictured, Howard Johnson’s in Portland, Texas
The restaurants were distinguishable for their design and iconic orange rooftops
By 1985, the franchise took a downturn and the company was sold to Marriott, which in turned sold more than 200 of the locations to Prime Motor Inn. Many restaurants, like the one in Fort Lee, New Jersey, pictured, were gutted and closed
Eventually, all the Howard Johnson’s closed down by 2015, leaving only the Maine (pictured) and Lake George location open
Business, unfortunately, took a quick downturn for the business as McDonalds, Burger King and other fast-food franchises exploded, with many Howard Johnson’s shuttering down throughout the late 1970s.
By 1985, Marriott bought Howard Johnsons’ for $314 million, selling about 200 of its locations to Prime Motor Inn, which then had only 63 locations, for $235 million.
Howard Johnsons’ began to close down throughout the decades until only the Lake George location was left by 2016.