Oct. 10, 2011
CHARLESTOWN, Mass. — A Massachusetts-based family friendly restaurant chain is heading into bankruptcy. Friendly's is shutting down 63 locations across the country after more than 75 years in business. Half of those closings are right here in the Bay State.
WBGH visited one of the closed restaurants in Charlestown where we met Jim Andrea, "I went to Friendly's when I was young. It is sad. It is an icon going down. I guess it is a sign of the times."
30 locations are closing shop in Massachusetts in order to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nicole Lessard grew up in Wilbraham, the hometown of Friendly's. She has plenty of fond memories going there as a kid and is saddened she can't provide her daughter with the same.
Nicole Lessard of Charlestown said, "I was excited to bring my daughter to Friendly's one day and do sort of the free kid dinner night and share an ice cream cone. It is also a loss to the community because there are not a lot of places you can bring your kids to."
Frank Keane actually attended the grand opening of Friendly's in Charlestown several decades ago and used to come here each morning for his scrambled eggs before this sign appeared. Keane said, "It is a loss to Charlestown. It really is. It is a nice place to go. I really do miss it."
The neighborhood ice cream shop opened during the Great Depression, but unfortunately it couldn't stay afloat during these current economic conditions. Casual family restaurants have been hit hard by the bad economy. This old-school hang out has had a difficult time competing against places like Panera Bread. The other problem with the Western Mass- based company is its best selling item: ice cream.
As Americans become more health conscious, they are ditching their banana splits for a healthier option. On Newbury Street, there have been several stores opening up offering new low cal frozen treats. With the calories displayed on the board, customers can enjoy a guilt free frozen snack. Ibba Armancas, an Emerson College student, said, "The fact that it is lower calories, it helps people out. You feel less guilty to get your sweet thing."
But for more longtime Friendly's customers, they put calories aside and instead focus on the memories made over decades eating the delicious ice cream and cheeseburgers with their families.
It is not all bad news for Friendly's. More than 400 locations will remain open. Here's a link to the nutrition page for Friendly's. You won't believe how many grams of fat are in the kids meals.
Here's a list of the closings.
Here are some comments we found on Twitter from Friendly's fans:
MORE GREATER BOSTON
Subscribe to WGBH Food & Wine Emails