Isn’t it odd how you can see “something” day after day and soon take it for granted as being part of your life? Even stranger is the fact that when that “something” suddenly goes away, we quickly forget it ever existed.
Consider, for example, the many places we spend money every day … hotels, restaurants, airlines, retail establishments, etc. These are place that we visit weekly, sometimes even daily. They often seem to be here today and gone tomorrow. Assisting our “instant amnesia” is the fact that new businesses spring up almost instantaneously to replace those that have disappeared. How many of the following do you remember?
Fondly known as “HoJo’s” by many loyal patrons, the first “orange-roofed” restaurant opened in 1929 and specialized in ice cream and fried clams. From there, Howard Johnson grew it to become one of the largest restaurant chains in the world. When the company went public in 1961, there were 605 Howard Johnson restaurants, and at one point, the count reached 800 coast to coast. When Marriott Corporation bought the chain in 1985, the lodging and dining operations were essentially divided. There are now only three original Howard Johnson restaurants left (one in Maine and two in New York).
The first Tower Records store was opened in 1960 in Sacramento, California. The location would be the start of a music megastore and become one of America’s largest music and video retailers. At its peak it had 200 stores in 21 states. But in 2004, it filed for bankruptcy claiming Internet piracy and discount stores were to blame. Although there are no more physical locations, you can still visit it virtually at Tower.com.
Founded in Indiana in 1954, Burger Chef expanded throughout the U.S. At its peak, it was said to be second only to McDonald’s in the number of locations nationwide. By 1970, it had 2,400 locations. Burger Chef was known for its flame-broiled burgers, “works bar” and “value combo” meals. In 1982, many Burger Chef locations were converted to Hardee’s. In 1996, the last Burger Chef closed.
This popular Mexican eatery was a gathering place for family dining for close to 30 years. Founded in Minnesota in 1975, the chain grew to 210 locations, primarily in the Midwest and East, by 1995. However in 2003, Chi-Chi’s was struggling and had just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, when a large Hepatitis A outbreak was linked to green onions at one of its locations. The outbreak hit Chi-Chi’s hard and pretty much sealed its fate. Outback Steakhouse bought Chi-Chi’s North American properties, but not its brand name, recipes or operations. In 2004, Chi-Chi’s closed all of its remaining restaurants in North America. (Chi-Chi’s restaurants are still in operation in other countries and a line of Chi-Chi brand salsa is available in most American supermarkets.)
Similar to today’s Chuck E. Cheese, the Discovery Zone was a chain of entertainment facilities featuring ball pits, climbing structures and indoor mazes. Founded in 1989, it grew rapidly to become the nation’s largest operator of children’s indoor entertainment facilities, peaking at 347 locations in 1994. Stretched thin by expansion, Discovery Zone filed for bankruptcy in 1996. By the end of 1999, Chuck E. Cheese’s purchased Discovery Zone’s name, logo and remaining fun centers. It turned many of them into Chuck E. Cheese facilities while shutting down the rest.