Face it. Not every retailer or restaurant can last forever. However, when some establishments close their doors for that last time, some of us feel a little pang in our hearts. Whether we have fond childhood memories linked to a certain location or whether we can't find an alternative that truly measures up, these places leave us wanting more.
With this in mind, we asked readers to share with us those places they miss the most. From their nostalgic notes, we picked our 10 favorites to spotlight.
Do you remember any of these?
Founded in Indiana in 1954, Burger Chef expanded throughout the U.S. At its peak, it was said to be second only to McDonald's in the number of locations nationwide. By 1970, they had 2,400 locations. They were known for their flame-broiled burgers, "works bar" and "value combo" meals. In 1982, many Burger Chef locations were converted to Hardee's. In 1996, the last Burger Chef closed.
Reader Holliestatzer says: "I thought it was the greatest thing in the world, when I was little, to make my own burger. And if I recall, the food was pretty good too! It would be great to share that with my kids now."
Similar to today's Chuck E. Cheese, the Discovery Zone was a chain of entertainment facilities featuring ball pits, climbing structures and indoor mazes. Founded in 1989, it grew rapidly to become the nation's largest operator of children's indoor entertainment facilities, peaking at 347 locations in 1994. Stretched thin by expansion, Discovery Zone filed for bankruptcy on March 26, 1996. By the end of 1999, Chuck E. Cheese's purchased Discovery Zone's name, logo and remaining fun centers. It turned many of them into Chuck E. Cheese facilities while shutting down the rest.
Reader Poshvache48 says: 'I loved them as a kid, but they aren't around anymore. This place was awesome growing up. Could go there for hours and never get bored."
Chi-Chi's was founded in Minnesota in 1975. By 1995, the chain had grown to 210 locations, primarily in the Midwest and East. However in 2003, Chi-Chi's was struggling and had just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, when a large Hepatitis A outbreak was linked to green onions at one of its locations. The outbreak hit Chi-Chi's hard and sealed the fate of the Mexican eatery. Outback Steakhouse bought Chi-Chi's North American properties, but not its brand name, recipes or operations. On Sept. 18, 2004, Chi-Chi's closed all of its remaining restaurants in North America. (Chi-Chi's restaurants are still in operation in other countries and a line of Chi-Chi brand salsa is available in most American supermarkets.)
Reader Mrmister22 says: "Chi-Chi's always had great food -- good quality, a lot of it and at really good prices. Their hot salsa was also the best. I used to bring a container with me every time and ask them to fill it up for me so I could take some home ... Thanks Outback for buying the chain and closing them. Grrr."
Founded in New Jersey in 1975 by Albert Lechter, the popular mall store hit its expansion peak in 1992. By 1997, the chain had 648 stores. But in 1998, the overall chain was shrinking, not growing. In 2001, after not being profitable for years, it announced it would close 166 stores. Things just got worse from there.
Reader Elanazab2 says: "[It had] whatever you needed -- and even things you didn't realize you 'needed.' Lechter's was the place to find it. Had the best selection of kitchen/bath items. I really miss that store!"
Walgreen's Diner Counter
In 1910, Walgreen's took the common drugstore soda fountain to the next level and began serving simple food. Beginning with sandwiches, soups and desserts, all the food was prepared by Myrtle Walgreen and delivered fresh to the two Chicago Walgreen's stores. From then on, through the 1980s, food service was an integral part of the Walgreen's story. Every Walgreen's was outfitted with comfortable, versatile soda fountain facilities serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Reader Kathleenmkaufman says:
"You could go inside eat at the counter lunch bar have a Green River drink and a patty melt. simply sit and enjoy then go back to shopping the downtown stores in Hammond Indiana. Heck, I miss the whole downtown. It's gone now. Nothing there. All the good stores are gone like Goldblats, army navy store, the old movie theaters. Rosalies, Rothchilds, The Place. Memories that is all they are now."
Samuel Hecht's first store, which offered used furniture, opened in Baltimore, Md. in 1857. Over time, Hechts' product line expanded, it moved to new locations and added more and more stores. The chain was acquired by the May Company in 1959, which was then acquired by Federated Department Stores in 2005. The Hecht's name was then phased out in favor of the more nationally-known Macy's.
Reader Brstinger says: "I really miss Hecht's! I knew the brands they carried, the layout of the store, could almost predict when certain sales would begin. The chain that bought Hecht's out CANNOT replace Hecht's!"
Howard Johnson's Restaurants
In 1929, Howard Deering Johnson opened his first restaurant specializing in ice cream and fried clams. From there, he grew it to become one of the largest restaurant chains in the world. When Howard Johnson Co. went public in 1961, there were 605 Howard Johnson restaurants. And at one point, the count reached 800 coast to coast. When Marriott Corp. bought the chain in 1985, the lodging and dining operations were essentially divided. There are now only three original Howard Johnson restaurants left (one in Maine and two in New York). The rights to the HoJo restaurant brand are currently held by La Mancha Group LLC.
Reader HSA19 says: "[They had the] best pistachio and chocolate chip ice cream and hot dogs at the cute orange-roofed restaurants. Also, they were always clean, good service and had good fried clam meals."
The first Tower Records store was opened in 1960 on Watt Avenue in Sacramento, Calif. The location would be the start of a music megastore and become one of America's largest music and video retailers. At its peak it had 200 stores in 21 states. But in 2004, it filed for bankruptcy claiming Internet piracy and discount stores were to blame. Although there are no more physical locations, you can still visit them virtually at Tower.com.
Reader Ajabrams134 says: "I really miss Tower Records here in NYC. The great selection in all genres of music and video hasn't been replaced. I loved both their regular store, particularly the Lincoln Center area branch with its incredible classical section and also the downtown sale annex. Browsing in both was one of my favorite activities and the online experience just isn't the same."
The original Caldor consisted of a single tiny store. It was three years before a second small shop was added, marking the start of a chain expansion that would blanket the Northeast by the 1990s. However, the discount chain found itself unable to compete against the lower prices and larger selections of stores like Wal-Mart and declared bankruptcy in 1995. On May 15, 1999 it closed all of its stores.
Reader SarahsApples says: "I loved Caldor. It had the nicest selection of merchandise, higher quality than stores with like prices. Caldor was one of a kind. You never had to get Rain Checks because the merchandise was always available. It was the greatest."
Lum's was founded by the Perlman family, who opened their first Lum's in Miami Beach in 1956. The franchise eventually grew to 500 locations across the U.S. One of its trademark menu items was hot dogs steamed in beer.
WalletPop says: In our research, we came across frequent rumors that there were still one or two Lum's locations in existence. One in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and one in Bellevue, Neb. We made some calls and found out the Ft. Lauderdale location (actually it was in Davie, Fla.) is no longer a Lum's, but is now the Flashback Diner. We also spoke with "Kina" the owner of a Lums Restaurant in Nebraska who confirmed that location used to be part of the now-defunct Lum's chain, but it is now an independently-owned restaurant. However, the Nebraska Lums still has some of the original Lum's recipes and will make you a Lumsburger or hotdog boiled in beer on request.
Which retail or restaurant chain do you miss? Tell us in the comments section below.
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