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This Once-Largest Restaurant Chain In America Just Shuttered Its Last Location

The beloved brand is gone forever.

It all started when Howard Deering Johnson, who grew up in the town of Quincy, Mass., purchased a drugstore and began peddling homemade ice cream. His dessert became so popular, he then opened an ice cream stand on Wollaston Beach, where, legend has it, he sold as many as 14,000 cones in a single day. In 1929, the first Howard Johnson's restaurant opened in Quincy Square.

Fast forward to 2022, and what was the largest restaurant chain in the United States throughout the 1960s and 1970s—with more than 1,000 locations—is now closing the doors to its last remaining location. According to Eater, the 70-year-old establishment in New York State's tourist-packed village of Lake George did not open its doors during Memorial Day weekend and seems to have been shuttered since March.

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Howard Johnsons restaurant
Road-Maven / Tripadvisor

The beloved restaurant chain began to take a downturn in the late 1970s. The company was first sold to Imperial Group, one of Britain's largest companies at the time, for $630 million in 1979. Six years later, Imperial sold Howard Johnson's to "rival restaurant empire" Marriott for $314 million. After that, Howard Johnson's locations began to disappear, and by the turn of the century, there were fewer than a dozen Howard Johnson's restaurants left standing.

The lease for the Lake George location is now listed for a mere $10 and is described as a "rare business opportunity to lease a prime piece of real estate in the heart of Lake George."

Care to reminisce? Look for a group called HoJoLand on Facebook. Its description: "A group for fans of, a website dedicated to an American icon, Howard Johnson's Restaurants and Ice Cream Shops. Long live the Orange Roof!"

The most recent post in that group reads: "Lake George is officially dead. Plastic tables and chairs removed. All memorabilia removed. Cobwebs on the door."

Then come the nostalgia-fueled comments, like "Had several great meals there on my honeymoon in 1963" and "Summer 1983. Nothing but happy memories for me and Howard Johnson's."

Melissa Fiorenza
Melissa Fiorenza has been writing for over a decade on a range of topics, including mental health, nutrition, fitness, parenting, and women's issues. Read more about Melissa