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Howard Johnson. The two words immediately evoke a particular era of American history and bring back warm memories for baby boomers everywhere.
Today, there’s just one Howard Johnson restaurant in operation. The second-to-last Howard Johnson restaurant, in Bangor, Maine (pictured above), closed on September 6, leaving the Lake George, New York, location as the sole representative of this classic piece of Americana (while HoJo restaurants have dwindled, the accompanying hotel chain continues to operate throughout the U.S).
At its peak, more than 800 orange-roofed restaurants dotted the U.S. landscape, according to Consumerist. The chain, which started as an ice cream counter and pharmacy in 1925, became famous for serving up baskets of fried clams.
Before officially closing down, the operators of the Bangor HoJo had scaled back to just breakfast and lunch, but even that was proving tough to maintain. The hotel side of the business will remain open.
Where and when did HoJo begin?
A man named, of course, Howard Johnson started it all in 1925 in Quincy, Massachusetts (also the birthplace of Dunkin Donuts!). The soda fountain became the busiest part of the original pharmacy, and Johnson eventually served up 28 flavors, which may or may not have been based on his mother’s recipes, according to Wikipedia.
The Howard Johnson logo is referred to as “Simple Simon & The Pieman.” Pop culture predicted that HoJos would have staying power—notice their presence on the space station in 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The classic restaurant design was based on the New England Colonial style home, according to RoadsideFans. The Colonial style was a good fit in the New England towns where the chain began. Johnson put his own twist on the design by adding bright orange roofs.
Just how big was HoJo in the 1960s? RoadsideFans reports that in 1965 the company’s sales were more than McDonald’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined.
But like everything, times change. Here’s a look at the last man standing, in Lake George:
Can’t get enough HoJo nostalgia? This book is just your ticket.