The Last Howard Johnson's Restaurant Has Closed

Howard Johnson's was once an American institution.
Howard Johnson's was once an American institution. / Blank Archives/GettyImages

Before comfort food meant opening your DoorDash app, Baby Boomers and Generation X headed to Howard Johnson’s, a national restaurant chain serving up their trademark fried clams and 28 different varieties of ice cream—all of it easily spotted thanks to a distinctive orange roof.

Those days are officially over, because the last “HoJo’s” has finally shuttered its doors.

According to ABC News 10, the last known location, in Lake George, New York, closed sometime in May and has been up for lease since December 2021. The property, located near the Adirondack Mountains, had long been a staple in the area, which is gearing up for another busy summer tourist season.

Named after its founder, Howard Johnson’s opened its first full-service location in 1929 and quickly began dotting the country, franchising the name and menu long before such practices were common. Meat platters and ice cream kept diners and road-trippers satisfied; Johnson eventually branched out into the hotel business. The brand became so closely identified with mid-20th-century Americana that a location was faithfully recreated for a scene in AMC’s Mad Men.

The increasing availability of fast food and a revolving door of upper management eventually put HoJo’s on the precipice. While Howard Johnson hotels are still in business, the eateries dwindled until only the Lake George location was left. Like the world's last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, it seemed to symbolize the last gasp of a once-formidable cultural institution.

It’s possible a future lease holder could retain the Howard Johnson’s name. For now, though, the orange roof is no longer.

[h/t ABC7]