Last New England Howard Johnson’s Closes
Try not to let the waves of grief and nostalgia crush your spirit. We’ve now officially lost another local icon to the passage of time. On this day, the last Howard Johnson’s in New England closed its doors.
The final outlet for the Quincy-born restaurant chain, off I-95 in Bangor, was set to shutter Tuesday. The motel will remain open.
There is still one more HoJo in operation, in Lake George, New York. Its owner tells the Associated Press he plans to keep the restaurant running as long as he can.
But it’s the last of its kind in New England, where the chain got its start in 1925 near Wollaston Beach and became one of the country’s most ubiquitous roadside restaurants.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that the era of Howard Johnson is just about over. After all, we’ve heard this story before, the past slipping through our fingers one dive bar or bowling alley or news stand at a time. Yes, even for an old-school restaurant chain with as devoted a following as this one (take a minute to enjoy the HoJoLand website and its testimonials, odes to HoJo archaeologists, and archives of ghosts of Howard Johnsons past).
The prospect of losing an icon has sent customers up to the location to relive the diner fare one last time, as the Globe reports.
But it turns out that nostalgia alone couldn’t keep the restaurant—where one could pick up affordably priced burgers, pancakes, and clams—in business. Its owners, David and Sally Patel, told the AP they tried for four years to make it economically viable. But they couldn’t.
For Kathe Jewett, the restaurant’s closure will mark the end of a 50-year career with HoJo, where she’s been a fixture serving everyone from businesspeople, vacationers and novelist Stephen King.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s nothing to be sad about,” the 68-year-old Jewett told the AP last month. “I’ve been here for 50 years — and it’s time.”