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Farewell, Howard: The last HoJo’s has closed for good

The final outpost of the South Shore-born 20th-century restaurant empire has shut its doors in upstate New York.

The Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Lake George, N.Y., was the nation's final outpost of the once-popular fast-food joint.Mike Groll

The nation’s last surviving Howard Johnson’s restaurant is no more — officially.

The Lake George, N.Y., location did not open for the unofficial start of summer on Memorial Day, and the 7,500-square-foot property is up for lease, the Albany Times-Union reported Wednesday.

A HoJo’s fan posted on Facebook that the restaurant was last open in March.

“Lake George is officially dead,” Alyssa Kelly wrote. “I know that this place has been inconsistent open over the last few years, but this is the first time they’ve been closed for a major busy weekend in Lake George. So I think this is it.”

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The once-beloved roadside chain was born on the South Shore, where founder Howard D. Johnson opened an ice cream shop in Quincy more than 90 years ago. In the decades after World War II, HoJo’s transformed into an American empire that operated nearly 1,000 locations with orange roofs by the 1960s and 1970s. It made appearances in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Mad Men.”

But the success of HoJo’s was later eclipsed by McDonald’s and other fast-food chains. Marriott bought the hotel arm of Howard Johnson’s in 1985, while the restaurant franchises soldiered on. By 2015, only three locations — in Lake Placid,N.Y.; Bangor, Maine; and Lake George — remained. One by one, they have closed.

The Times-Union reported that a former vending-machine salesman bought the Lake George HoJo’s in 2015. He ran the spot until he was arrested and convicted of harassing staffers. It reopened under a new owner, who kept it running for several years.

The Globe reported in 2017 that site was up for sale, advertised as a “prime development opportunity.”


Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.