WINDSOR LOCKS, CT — After nearly 60 years in business in Windsor Locks, the Friendly's restaurant on Route 75 has closed its doors. A sign in the doorway reads, "This location is permanently closed. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please visit our Enfield location. 94 Elm St., Enfield, CT 06082."
On Friday afternoon, a Patch editor stopped at the restaurant and ordered food at the take-out window. When he asked an employee if the store would be closing as rumored, she replied, "No." A sign on the door Friday indicated the dining room is temporarily closed, and the employee said it had been so since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
A return visit Saturday morning, after 90 minutes of phone attempts resulted in busy signals, revealed the closure notice. The photo below at left was taken Friday afternoon, and the one at right less than 24 hours later.
"It's a shame," First Selectman Chris Kervick told Patch. "If they could have held out until All Sports Village opened, they would have been swamped with business."
The Windsor Locks restaurant had opened a drive-thru service in 2017, and underwent extensive remodeling a year later, but the coronavirus pandemic which has caused severe restrictions on dining establishments was apparently too great a hardship to overcome.
Three weeks ago, Friendly's parent corporation, FIC Restaurants Inc., announced an agreement to sell most of its assets to Amici Partners Group, LLC. It filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, as well as a motion seeking approval of the sale to Amici, according to a statement on the company's website.
In the statement, the company declared, "Nearly all of Friendly’s 130 corporate-owned and franchised restaurant locations are expected to remain open subject to COVID-19 limitations, and the transaction is expected to preserve thousands of corporate-owned restaurant team member and franchisee jobs ... Friendly’s has sufficient cash on-hand to continue operations, meet its obligations to employees, franchisees and vendors, and ensure a seamless transition. Upon the sale closing, Amici expects to retain substantially all employees at Friendly’s corporate-owned restaurant locations."
Friendly's was founded in Springfield, Mass. in 1935 by brothers S. Prestley Blake and Curtis Blake, and grew to 850 locations at its peak. S. Prestley Blake will turn 106 next week, while his brother passed away in 2019 at 102.
Mel Montemerlo, an expert on Windsor Locks history, said, "Friendly's came to Windsor Locks in Dexter Plaza, probably about 60 years ago. It was a sensation. I thought Friendly's was the coolest place in the world. There was a Friendly's in Bel Air, Md., where I live now. It just closed. All good things must end some time. Friendly's Ice Cream was great, but the ambience of going to Friendly's for a sundae was even greater. When my father, Leo Montemerlo, was in his 80s and 90s, and my wife and I came to visit, Dad always wanted to go to Friendly's for a sandwich and a sundae."
Town property records indicate the 2 Corporate Drive building was constructed in 1982.
Windsor Locks had been one of 11 remaining Friendly's locations in Connecticut. Other restaurants in Hartford and Tolland counties, in addition to Enfield, are in Vernon, Avon, Newington, Bristol, Southington and Plainville.