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.
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.
Friendly’s Little Known Facts
- In 1950 Friendly’s was the first restaurant in New England to provide “take home” ice cream by the half gallon.
- In 1988 Friendly’s was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest sundae.
- In 1989 the apostrophe (‘) was added to the name Friendly’s
- In 2007 Friendly’s kid’s menu was awarded “The Best Kid’s Menu” in America
- By 2014 Friendly’s was producing over 2 million gallons of ice cream a year
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently, there are only 137 locations remaining. These were bought for $2 million by the parent company of Red Mango and Smoothie Factory.
Things We Remember About Friendly’s
- The Reese’s Pieces Sundae
- The Fribble
- The Strawberry Royal
- The Jim Dandy
- Burgers and Fries
- Well Lit Restaurant
- Never too noisy
- Friendly service
- Menus that could be written on and erased
- Hang-man on the menus
- Waitresses in blue checkered dresses with white aprons
- Single, Double, and Triple Scoops of Ice Cream
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