Friendly’s Restaurant

What comes to mind when you hear, “Reese’s Pieces Sundae?” If you get immediate visions of globs of vanilla soft serve ice cream, peanut butter, marshmallow, hot fudge, Reese’s Pieces, whipped cream, and a cherry all piled high in a giant fishbowl-like sundae glass that was probably bigger than your head, than you remember Friendly’s Restaurant.

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Friendly’s was perhaps the most beloved family eatery of mid-century America. In 1935, two young brothers, Prestley and Curtis Blake opened their first ice cream shop in Springfield, Mass.

Upon opening, the brothers made a promise that the shop would be a “Friendly place where families could enjoy a meal together.” The Friendly’s corporation has based its mission on this promise ever since.

Furthermore, the brothers vowed to have the same simple foods on their menu year after year so that families for generations to come could enjoy the same great food. And that is just what they did.

Friendly's Men's Apron

World War II

In 1941 the nation was suddenly in turmoil as the U.S. entered World War II. Families were separated, and some fathers, husbands, and sons never returned home as they were lost to the devastation of the war. Out of respect for the nation and for the families who were working hard to fight for our country, the Blake brothers decided to close the locations of their ice cream shops.

During wartime Prestley and Curtis put signs on the doors of their shops that read, “We will re-open when we win the war.” And they did just that. They re-opened in 1945 after the war had ended.

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Friendly’s Little Known Facts

  1. In 1950 Friendly’s was the first restaurant in New England to provide “take home” ice cream by the half gallon.
  2. In 1988 Friendly’s was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest sundae.
  3. In 1989 the apostrophe (‘) was added to the name Friendly’s
  4. In 2007 Friendly’s kid’s menu was awarded “The Best Kid’s Menu” in America
  5. By 2014 Friendly’s was producing over 2 million gallons of ice cream a year
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So What Happened To Friendly’s?

At its height, the Friendly’s Corporation had 850 restaurants. Today there are only 137 locations left. So, what went wrong?

Some will say there were problems between the brothers which there were at one point, but that didn’t last long. Some will say it was due to financial difficulties. That would be true as well. Still others would say that the Covid – 19 pandemic played a big part in the downfall of this enormously successful corporation. And there would be no doubt this would be a factor as well.

Video: Retro Friendly’s Restaurant Commercial

In 2011 the Blake brothers decided to file for bankruptcy. They claimed they were $297 million in debt. They blamed their financial difficulties on the 2008 recession and the increased costs of cream and high rents along with other increases.

Following the 2011 bankruptcy, the Blake brothers consistently began to close Friendlys locations all across the country.

Friendly's sundae

However, one monumental factor that aided in the fall of the enterprise was the fact that popularity waned as Friendly’s failed to keep up with current health and wellness trends. Frequent restaurant patrons don’t take their children out for hamburgers and fries as much anymore. They would rather pay a little more and feed their children a healthier meal consisting of soup and salad.

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And then, unfortunately, on November 2, 2020 the Friendly’s Corporation had to file a second time for bankruptcy as a result of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Retro TV Tees

Still Open

There are 119 locations still open for business! These were bought by the parent company of Red Mango and Smoothie Factory.

Click HERE to find a location that is still open

Things We Remember About Friendly’s

  1. The Reese’s Pieces Sundae
  2. The Fribble
  3. The Strawberry Royal
  4. The Jim Dandy
  5. Burgers and Fries
  6. Well Lit Restaurant
  7. Never too noisy
  8. Friendly service
  9. Menus that could be written on and erased
  10. Hang-man on the menus
  11. Waitresses in blue checkered dresses with white aprons
  12. Single, Double, and Triple Scoops of Ice Cream
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15 responses to “Friendly’s Restaurant”

  1. […] and has closed many of its locations. Yet, some Tastee Freez locations are still around! While the locations may have changed over the years, the taste of their food has remained the same. This is likely due […]

    1. Delcy Voisine Avatar
      Delcy Voisine

      We are lucky to have Friendly’s in our town.

  2. Margaret Collins Avatar
    Margaret Collins

    As a former employee of Friendly’s, I believe a lot of the stores were miss managed by district managers that didn’t stand behind the employees. There’s nothing like giving your role to a company and having your district manager talk down to you like you were nothing. I always have great store managers though, too bad they weren’t really in charge, and they started to have to fear for their own jobs

  3. Tom Ray Avatar
    Tom Ray

    Unfortunately, you don’t have a very good memory. The Reeces Pieces Sundae was made with the regular hard vanilla ice cream, not soft serve. And there was no marshmallow unless you ordered the 5 scooper. I should know. I’ve eaten enough of them over the years.

  4. […] locations have shuttered, Big Boy Restaurant Group announced in 2020 that they had entered into a partnership with Terrible Herbst to expand to Nevada. Other recent locations that have been opened include one […]

  5. Ralph Engel Avatar
    Ralph Engel

    It took forever to be served. We found that in several Friendly’s locations. It appeared that the servers did everything, including making the ice cream concoctions. The kids would get antsy, the parents would get annoyed, and we stopped going to Friendly’s. In addition, the ice cream regularly had pieces of ice in it, and was far from top quality.

    1. Alex Avatar

      I remember that too! Poor waitress making 6 sundaes for a table and looking frustrated. They should have had a dedicated kitchen employee making the desserts.

      1. Alan Avatar

        When I was a Mgr. in the 90’s there was always a fountain worker scheduled to make all the Sundae’s etc. Sunday morning after church was always 800+ covers (Meals) it was crazy!

  6. Cindy Graham Avatar
    Cindy Graham

    Miss Friendlys. Great memories from childhood going to the one in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Still my favorite place.

  7. Rich Avatar

    As a former unit manager the thing thT killed Friendly’s was the government involvement. They forced the Corp to change how managers were paid. All the good managers started leaving at that point. Before that time managers treated the units as their own.

  8. Tom Avatar

    Friendly’s changed when Hershey’s bought them out in 1979. I was a Manager of a Restaurant. Friendly’s had a great compensation package where employees were treated like owners and shared in the profits of there location. Hershey corporations took away all incentives. Many Managers left at this point including my self with our staff and open our own Restaurants. People will work hard and be loyal to there vocation if there compensated correctly. End of Friendly’s!!

    1. Alfred Smith Avatar
      Alfred Smith

      Sad ending

  9. Chris Avatar

    Hadn’t been to a Friendly’s in years. Four in area closed up leaving just one left. Decided to go to it. This is the one we all went to after a sporting event in high school as players and fans. It was our gathering spot in the mid to late 80’s.
    The inside didn’t appear to have changed too much. It was quiet and had about a half dozen or more tables occupied. Looked like a much younger staff than back in the day. But I had no issues and enjoyed a Reese’s Pieces Sundae, the large one. It was as good as I remember. It is a definite favorite but since in awhile thing. Too many of those yummy treats and the scale will beg for mercy anytime I step on it!!!!!!
    Great memories of a better time in our nation.

  10. Carol Avatar

    Wish you were still here.

  11. Alan Gold Avatar
    Alan Gold

    I keenly remember when the Colonie Center Friendly’s closed up about 10 or 12 years ago. It had been a mainstay of this Albany, NY mall since the early 70’s. In its heyday, you could rarely find a seat available because the place was always packed.

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