Just like any other business, even the most popular restaurant chains can eventually begin to disappear.
Just like what happened to this iconic restaurant with its iconic orange roof has closed its last location.
The last remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurant, the orange-roofed baby-boomer favorite known for fried clams and 28 flavors of ice cream including both peanut and pecan brittle, shut its doors, bringing down the curtain on a chain. The outlet, in Lake George, New York, closed this spring after almost 70 years.
In its heyday, the restaurant chain had hundreds of locations across the country, but in recent decades was forced to close most of them in the face of rising costs and fierce competition, especially from fast food businesses.
Alyssa Kelly, of the HoJoLand fan group who has been documenting the restaurant’s struggle for years, wrote on Facebook:
“Lake George is officially dead, plastic tables and chairs removed. All memorabilia removed (that is not original, that stays with the building). Cobwebs on the door.”
By the 2010s, there were only three Howard Johnson’s locations left. This one was located in Lake George but was not associated with the franchise. The other two were in Lake Placid, New York, and Bangor, Maine. The location in Lake Placid closed its doors for good in 2015, while the Bangor, Maine location shut up shop the following year, 2016.
When the Lake George location opened in 1953, it was one franchise out of more than one thousand around the country. Because of its desirable location in the Adirondack Mountains, tourists would often stop at Howard Johnson’s restaurant location for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as they drove to and from their final destination.
The restaurant turned into the Lake George Family Restaurant in 2015 but maintained the iconic Howard Johnson’s branding and name. However, the restaurant found itself struggling to stay afloat after the establishment’s operator, Johnathan LaRock, faced charges for harassing 15 female employees, including some as young as age fourteen.
Despite recent struggles, customers are sad that Howard Johnson’s has done the way of the dinosaurs.
The restaurant industry is a notoriously risky, fickle place, where even the best prepared and skilled operators can find themselves with too little foot traffic to stay open. But the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an era of unprecedented difficulty for restaurateurs as temporary closures, limited diners, ongoing supply issues, and lack of meaningful assistance forced many out of business.
As the pandemic enters a new phase, restaurants are struggling to make up for lost time and confront a new landscape. Even some longtime names in the industry have felt the effects, forcing some out of business for good.