A New England restaurant chain that began in 1935 and eventually grew to 850 locations, now only has 150 locations. What happened?

The first Friendly's opened up in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1935 during the Great Depression and was started by two 18-year-old brothers. It was just an ice cream shop then, but a second shop opened in 1940 in West Springfield which had a food menu as well, and things began to take off from there.

In 1951 there were 10 Friendly's split between Connecticut and Western Mass. The chain continued to grow for decades and at its peak in 1988, there were 850 locations across 15 states in the Northeast, including every New England state.

Hershey Foods Corporation owned Friendly's by that time and ended up selling it at its peak. It wasn't for lack of spending too much on advertising as this 1980s Friendly's commercial proves.

Is this really Nathan Lane?

Their ice cream had become so popular that it started to become available in grocery stores in New England. You'll still find it there today in the ice cream section of any Hannford Supermarket. I recommend peppermint stick. It was always my favorite Friendly's ice cream as kid.

Today however Friendly's restaurants slowly keep closing. There's only one left in Maine in South Portland, two in New Hampshire and 31 in the state where it all began, Massachusetts.

So what happened? What caused this giant New England born restaurant chain to close 700 locations over the course of 35 years?

The YouTube channel CompanyMan did a deep dive into the history of Friendly's and how it got to where it is today.

Despite having had 850 restaurants at one time, Friendly's still endures and let's hope it still does for years to come.

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