For almost a century, Americans have been able to dine at one of Howard Johnson’s franchise locations and indulge in a delicious and hearty meal. However, the beloved tradition has come to a sad end as the restaurant chain, which was the first franchise restaurant group in the United States, has officially closed its last location in Lake George, New York. This closure marks the end of a tradition that millions of people have enjoyed and cherished for generations.
Locals were hopeful that the Lake George Howard Johnson’s location would reopen for the Memorial Day weekend. However, the restaurant remained closed, and they soon learned that it would not be reopening ever again. Lake George is a popular tourist destination during the summer months, but unfortunately, it was not enough business to sustain the restaurant.
Alyssa Kelly, a member of the HoJoLand fan group, who had been documenting the restaurant’s struggle for years, expressed her disappointment in a Facebook post.
“Lake George is officially dead,” she wrote. “Plastic tables and chairs removed. All memorabilia removed (that is not original, that stays with the building). Cobwebs on the door.”
The Lake George location opened in 1953 as one franchise out of more than one thousand across 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 quickly became a staple for many Americans and a symbol of the country’s growing prosperity and love for good food.
By the 2010s, only three Howard Johnson’s locations remained. This Lake George location was not associated with the franchise, while 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 down the following year, in 2016.
In 2015, the Lake George location rebranded itself as the Lake George Family Restaurant, while still maintaining the iconic Howard Johnson’s name and branding. However, the restaurant faced challenges in staying afloat after its operator, Johnathan LaRock, was charged with harassing 15 female employees, some as young as fourteen years old. The incident caused a lot of negative publicity for the restaurant, and it struggled to recover.
Despite the recent struggles, many customers expressed their sadness at the closure of Howard Johnson’s. One social media user wrote, “This is a sad loss. They served so many people at an affordable price. Guess as an affluent society, we’re no longer concerned about the average American family!” Another person shared their positive experience, stating that they had an “amazing pot roast” at the restaurant in January and received great service.
Dave Hood, a former employee of Howard Johnson’s, expressed his sorrow at the closure, stating that he and his wife would never be able to enjoy a Howard Johnson’s meal together ever again.
“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.
The closure of Howard Johnson’s marks the end of an era in American dining history. The restaurant chain’s legacy will be remembered by millions of people who enjoyed its delicious food and an iconic orange roof over the years. While the Lake George location may have closed its doors for the last time, the memories and experiences shared by its customers will live on forever.