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HoJoLand Stories 3
(Millington, Maryland) The last Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Maryland has been closed permanently.  Town of Millington government sources say the restaurant was sold at auction in April.  Also, the HoJo's in Bay City, Michigan, closed permanently May 17th
Two More HoJo's Shuttered
Above: The now-demolished HoJo's In Springfield, Vermont.
Above: The now-closed HoJo's In Millington, Maryland.
Last Puerto Rico HoJo Restaurant Closes
(Carolina, Puerto Rico) .What was a glimmer of hope for the fading Howard Johnson's Restaurant chain, the Carolina, Puerto Rico location at 4820 Isla Verde Avenue, which opened several years ago, closed in late-fall 2004.  According to an employee at the adjacent Howard Johnson Hotel, the HoJo Restaurant closed when the contract was up.  The restaurant is now "La Meje" Seafood Restaurant. The opening of this Puerto Rico HoJo took many by surprise when it opened several years ago in a land once dotted with many HoJo's.  Ironically, and perhaps a sign of the future, this HoJo sported a blue roof, as opposed to the traditional orange roof.  What HoJo Restaurants really need now is a "white knight" like Warren Buffet who rescued the fading Dairy Queen chain years ago.  Are there any "white knights" out there to help save the "orange roof"?
Above: The now-closed HoJo's In Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Long-vacant former Howard Johnson's Restaurant in New Haven, CT becomes "Greek Olive" Diner
(New Haven, CT)  Anthony Antonakis for years ran a small luncheonette, "Roberto's," near the WTNH-TV NewsChannel 8 television studios on State Street in New Haven, popular with WTNH employees, lawyers, bankers, and other downtown workers.  While the food was good, prices were affordable, and the service was quick, there were two apparent problems; "Roberto's" space was limited, and, since it was a "downtown" business-oriented restaurant, business dropped significantly after 5PM.  Antonakis sold the small restaurant, and seized a golden opportunity: he secured a long-vacant former Howard Johnson's Restaurant (once owned by George Carter) on the ground-floor of a busy high-rise hotel (once a HoJo's Hotel ) fronting I-95 at the intersection of I-95 and I-91 in New Haven.  Thousands of vehicles pass the establishment daily, which makes one wonder why former owner George Carter closed the HoJo unit in the late-1990's.  Apparently Carter, once the leader of Franchise Associates, Inc. (FAI is the owner of the Howard Johnson's name in relation to food service) and what was to be a re-birth of the Howard Johnson's Restaurant concept in the early 1990's, gave up on the orange-roofed establishments, closing his last two HJ units, the busy New Haven unit and lastly, the oldest HJ in Connecticut, Milford's Post Road/Route 1 unit.  Antonakis dubbed the restaurant "The Greek Olive," staying open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, invested heavily in refurbishing the interior, and painted the HoJo orange roof a lime-green.  It's sad that the orange roof no longer shines at the busy Long Wharf/New Haven location, but at least owner Antonakis realized his dream of a full-service, 24 hour restaurant.  This is yet another story of how someone took and old HoJo's and turned it into a successful eatery.  The only question is, why was Antonakis able to do it, and not the folks at Howard Johnson's?  Perhaps luck was not on their side.
HoJo Goes "Hollywood;" HoJo Restaurant In Delaware Becomes "Hollywood Grill"
(Wilimington, Delaware)  HoJoLand Reporter Peter Pellegrino has just reported that the Wilmington, Delaware "Howard Johnson's Restaurant" has literally covered up its cupola and changed its name to "Hollywood Grill Restaurant," leaving just ten Howard Johnson's Restaurants in existence, whith two more rumored to close in the not-to-distant future. Special thanks to Peter Pellegrino for his excellent reporting. Editors Note:  The following is Pellegrino's report of the demise of the orange roof in Delaware. (It has been edited to protect the restaurant employee's privacy) Tonight was monthly pilgrimage to drive from Philadelphia to Wilmington to eat at my favorite restaurant and to relive childhood memories. My pilgrimage started a few years ago with just me and has grown to six people. I have turned many of my friends on to HOJO's. Imagine my surprise when I pull in the lot and see a large sign on the roof covered in a blue tarp blocking the famed cupola. I knew this could not be good. Imagine my shock when we were seated and handed a piece of paper with the menu that said: "To our loyal customers: Effective October 1, 2003 we will be changing the name from Howard Johnson Restaurant to Hollywood Grill Restaurant. We as owners have not changed and will continue our tradition of serving the finest quality food, friendly service with a smile and keeping our warm comfortable atmosphere." I think it was a little divine intervention that I happened to pick tonight of all nights to go to Hojo's. Imagine how upset I would have been had I waited and missed my opportunity to relive my childhood memories just one more time. The waitresses were a bit sad. Our waitress said if she talked about it much longer she would begin to cry. The manager, who has worked at that restaurant for almost 30 years will continue to be the manager of the new place. I talked with him a bit and he too was sad. His adult life had been spent at that Howard Johnson's. I am glad to see that the owner has kept him on. He is a good man. The customers that were there were also very upset. The restaurant as you can imagine has a large senior clientele who have eaten at HOJO for almost their entire life. They were more than a bit leery of the new "Hollywood Grill: and the changes in forthcoming in the menu. Gone will be most of the Hojo favorites. I was told that they would keep fried clams on the menu but were not sure if the owners would keep the "Tender Sweet" recipe. Gone is the famous HoJo's ice cream. Replaced by a standard food service brand. There were only three flavors left tonight of the original HoJo's ice cream. I made sure to ask which they were as I wanted one last taste. All they had left was mocha, peppermint stick and mint chocolate chip. I had the mint chocolate chip and boy was it good.  As I was leaving, I said my good byes to the staff. I had gotten to know some of them fairly well from all my trips to the restaurant. I asked what the owners were going to do with the original sign on the road. I gave my card and told him if they were looking to get rid of it, to give me a call. I hope they do. As we were leaving, I wished them all the best and told them that they would most likely not be seeing me anymore because I am not going to make the 30 minute trip down from Philly to go a diner. There are certainly plenty of those right around my house. I took one more final look at orange roof as I drove away in my car. I was just a bit sad as I left.
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