For Parsippany-based Howard Johnson’s, it’s the end of an era; the end of an empire, really. They have closed their last restaurant in the US, in Lake George, NY.

No more fried clams at HoJo’s; the restaurant chain, which in the '70s had 1,000 locations and was the biggest food chain in America, has come to a humbling end.

It has been reported that at its height, no one fed more Americans than Howard Johnson’s except for the Army. But it was eclipsed, at first by aggressive fast-food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC and later by fast-casual eateries like Applebee’s.

Just to be clear, it is only the restaurant chain that is no longer; there are still about 300 Howard Johnson’s motels still open.

But the orange roofed restaurants that at one time were ubiquitous on the nation’s highways are no longer. I remember being dazzled by the 28 varieties of ice cream they featured. It was also the first place I ever had fried clams.

The restaurants had their roots in ice cream: In 1925, Howard Deering Johnson opened a drugstore in Quincy, Massachusetts.

After discovering that his soda fountain was most popular part of the store, he decided to focus on ice cream. He began opening concession stands along the Massachusetts shoreline that sold soda, hot dogs, and Johnson’s famous ice cream, which was popular in part due to its high butterfat content.

Howard Johnson’s also appeared in pop culture; “Mad Men” fans will remember when Don and Meagan had a fight at a restaurant and Don drove, leaving Meagan behind. That was at a HoJo. In the episode, Don exclaims that he loves Howard Johnson’s.

Another part of Americana gone.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle only.

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