Three months after closing 63 “underperforming” restaurants as part of a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Friendly’s closed an additional 37 stores Sunday after being unable to renegotiate leases with property owners. With that move, that iconic ice cream place your parents took you to as a kid significantly scaled back its presence on the local eatery scene.
Is it a sign of the end for Friendly’s or simply a restructuring that could leave the slimmed-down fast food chain financially sound? It’s anybody’s guess. But first, the more important question on the minds of Friendly’s fans in Central Massachusetts — what’s left?
Taking a look Central Mass. in the Worcester/Leominster region there are eight restaurants left.
Those still open:
- Leominster — 482 North Main Street. 978-537-9787
- Gardner — 18 Pearson Boulevard. 978-630-1821
- Holden — 1060 Main Street. 508-829-2991
- Worcester — 966 Grafton Street. 508-798-3298
- Sudbury — 457 Boston Post Road. 978-443-2033
- Auburn — 697 Southbridge Street. 508-832-3102
- Webster — 129 East Main Street. 508-943-8533
- Milford — 17 Medway Road. 508-473-7398
From a map view, that’s not horrible. There may not be several Friendly’s within a 10 min. drive of your door as there once was, but there’s still a smattering of them left spread out in the region. With the closure of the additional 37, Friendly’s says it has now emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That means the future is theirs to either grow, survive or die.
It definitely has a chance to survive. When the chain closed the Monument Square location in Leominster my son and I used to go to we drifted over to the one left on North Main Street. It was packed. We’ve been back twice since. Each time there’s been a wait for a seat. Despite a growing reputation for what many see as poor customer service and quality control, Friendly’s has a decades-old brand with sentimental attachments. With fewer stores left, those that are left are pulling in customers from a wider area. Sure, the economy is tough, but plenty of chains are doing well. With massive debt no longer looming over the chain, the Supermelt is squarely in Friendly’s court.