(June 14, 2009) The "grand lady" of all HoJo's, the former Times Square (46th Street) location, closed in 2005. Soon, apparel retailer American Eagle, will open it's flagship store in the former location. And while cosrtuction crews have unearthed lots of old brick from the former 100 year old-plus building that housed HoJo's, HoJoLand.com has unearther a 1959 letter from the Howard Johnson Company to the Rubenstein family, congratulating them on the recent opening of their HoJo's unit at 46th Street. Click on the photo to the right to see a larger version.
Former HJ Ice Cream Shop Caparra, Puerto Rico
This page is in no way connected to or represented in any way by Wyndham Worldwide, owner of the "Howard Johnson" brand.
Wyndham Hotel Group today unveiled early details and designs around its Reinvigoration project for Howard Johnson®, a multi-year undertaking focused on elevating the overall guest experience by revitalizing all aspects of the brand—from property design and case goods to signature amenities and service. Announced at Wyndham Hotel Group’s 2013 Global Conference held here in Las Vegas, the project, which is backed by a significant investment in consumer research, represents the start of the next major chapter in the brand’s nearly 60-year lodging history. “Howard Johnson is a brand that for millions of travelers conjures fond memories of ice cream cones and family vacations,” said Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Eric Danziger. “It’s a name that carries with it incredible equity. Reinvigoration is about growing the brand and restoring it to its rightful place within the industry by inspiring that same type of brand loyalty and affinity from a new generation of consumers.”
As part of the unveiling, the brand shared conceptual interior and exterior designs that will begin appearing at yet-to-be-announced test locations throughout the U.S. as early as the end of next year. Best described as clean, fresh, fun and timeless, the designs showcase a new Howard Johnson that while modern in look and feel, offers a playful nod to its past. As an example, the brand is looking at ways to bring select flavors of ice cream back as a signature offering at all of its hotels. Also unveiled were early details around a new service training initiative that will launch as part of the larger project, an effort the brand believes will play an integral role shaping the overall guest experience at hotels. Said Danziger, “The goal is to create a consistent, outstanding product that exceeds guest expectations at all levels. To get there, great design is only one half of the equation, you need great service too.” Once tested and refined, the brand expects U.S. franchisees to have the opportunity to join the new Howard Johnson as early as 2015, provided a property has completed the necessary improvements, which are expected to vary from property to property. A new construction prototype is also expected to be available in the coming years.
Costs to join the new Howard Johnson are anticipated to be available prior to rollout, with the expectation that they will be competitive with other brands in the lower end of the midscale segment. The transition of the brand’s full portfolio to the new Howard Johnson—which will see the phasing out of the brands tiers, including Howard Johnson Inn, Howard Johnson Express Inn and Howard Johnson Plaza, among other changes—is expected to be a multi-year process.
If You Miss HoJo's Macaroni & Cheese, Try Mama Mae's....
It Tastes (and looks) Just Like HoJo's
By Walter Mann
First, no, this is NOT a paid advertisement. Recently, I had a "food experience" that I felt necessary to share with other HoJo-lovers. A few weeks ago, while at the grocery store lately, Shop-Rite to be specific, I saw an orange container in the frozen food section that looked similar to my old favorite, HoJo's. The box was the same size, shape and color, so I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try. A week or so later, I'm looking for something to east for a quick lunch, and remembered about the macaroni and cheese I purchased, so I opened it up, and the actual product in the inside of this brand I had never hear of, looked just like HoJo's macaroni and cheese looked frozen. So, I popped it in the microwave, and a few minutes later, when I took my first fork full, I was amazed! It was like someone replicated the famous HoJo recipe! The taste, the color, it was just like HoJo's. It brought me back to the days not that many years ago when I could pick up a few boxes of frozen HoJo Mac 'n' Cheese at the local store, and even though there were no longer any HoJo restaurants nearby, I could still enjoy their siganture macaroni and cheese. Ahh, those were the days, days we now wonder if they will ever come back. But, at least for now, I have Mama Mae's...just as good, and tastes the same. I gotta run....on the way for more Mama Mae's. (Note, Mama Mae's website, MamaMaes.com, indicates their products are available at A&P, Associated, Bravo, C-Town, Met, Pathmark, Pioneer, SuperFresh, Waldbaum's, Westside Market, Shop Rite, Costco and Duane Reade.)
When we sampled Mama Mae's, we at HoJoLand.com were shocked at how similar the taste was to HoJo's!
Don't Give Up Hope Yet, Efforts Continue
on HoJo Food & Beverage Relaunch
By Walter Mann
When Marriott Corporation digested it's aquisition of the Howard Johnson empire in the 1980's, an out-of-court settlement was reached between the remaining HJ restaurant franchisees and Prime Motor Inns (who had purchased what was left of HJ from Marriott). That settlement created Franchise Associates, Inc. (FAI). FAI was the franchisee-owned entity that licensed HoJo food and beverage operations (including restaurants and food products) from Prime. FAI tried to keep HJ food and beverages alive, but failed, and died a quick death years ago. Enter David Kushner, owner of a New York-based bridge (loans, not actual bridges) financing company. In 2005, Kushner got a hold of the HJ food and beverages rights almost by accident, when having dinner with a friend who was high up in management of Cendant, who by then, was the owner and licensor of HJ food and beverage. Kushner basically was told that the rights were available, and they didn't know which way to proceed (what to do with the rights).
Kushber jumped at the chance, and voilla, he became the licensee. While Kushner had grandiose plans for the HJ brand, from having new packaging designed, to plans for new restaurants. When Fairfield Farms Kitchens, the manufactured of HJ foods,shut down, Kushner was able to find another company, America's Kitchen, to handle the food production. Kushner was so serious about succeeding in the relaunch, he even named his kid's little league team after HoJo's. However, America's Kitchen shut down within a year, and Kushner eventually lost the rights back to the licensor, which by then, had become Wyndham. Now, in 2014, many HoJo food and beverage afficionados haven all but given up hope that HJ food and beverage will ever re-launch. Yet, in 2010, the Mass. Market "Wicked Local" blog, written by veteran journalist Jon Chesto, indicated that the restaurant chain’s latest chapter, in 2007, started when when Jerry Costa, a businessman based in Reading, started talking with Wyndham about how to bring the HoJo’s food business back to life. Though little more is known at this point, the belief is that efforts may still be underway to bring back the orange roof, especially as Wyndham has introduced the new brand re-launch of the HoJo brand, complete with new logo and interior and exterior design for the HoJo lodging operations. All this continues to give hope that one day, maybe within five years, we still could see a new HoJo emerge. Keep the (orange) faith. Though all good things do end, some come back, like the re-launched Gino's Burgers, or Caldor, which may be back soon as an e-retailer.
If You've Never Heard of a "HoJo-archaelogist," Now You Have!
By Walter Mann
We recently received an email from a woman in Glenns Falls, Pennsylvania stating that when she was expanding her garden in her back yard, she kept digging up pieces of ceramic plates, which, upon closer examination, proved to be old plates from the Howard Johnson Restaurant empire. Little is known how these hundreds of pieces of old plates ended up in her back yard, other than the woman's house was built seven years ago on property that used to be forest. Yet, every time
she plants a new garden, she continues to find shards of plates from Howard Johnson's Ice Cream and Restaurants. The woman jokingly stated that someday in some new garden they design, they will find the mother load!! Her neighbors have never seen such a thing in their yards.
The woman, whose name is Denise, said, "it seems like a HOJO was Pompeii'd here!" We will keep you updated on any developments in this un-earthing of HoJo relics.
Above: Some of the pieces of HoJo plates unearthed in a garden is rural Glenns Falls, PA.
Times-Union: Lake George Howard Johnson's
Restaurant To Re-Open Soon
By Walter Mann
The Times-Union is reporting that the closed Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Lake George, New York will re-open on August 1, 2014. The restaurant, which was closed two years ago by the DeSantis family, longtime owner and franchisee of the property, has been up for sale for $1.2 million, but apparently found no takers. According to Marv Cermak of the Times-Union, property owner Joe DeSantis has confirmed the restaurant's August 1, 2014 re-opening. The DeSantis family has decided to lease the building to John Larock, who DeSantis claims will re-open the unit as a Howard Johnson's, and will feature signature HoJo food items such as the Friday fish-fry and fried clam specials. The Lake George restaurant was opened as a Howard Johnson's in 1954 by DeSantis' father, Carl. It's been well documented that Rachel Ray, author and Emmy Award-winning chef with the Food Network, started out on the kitchen staff at the Lake George HoJo, starting as a dishwasher. This is the first time in over a decade that a new HoJo Restaurant has been opened. Let's hope this is the first in a string of good news about an eventual relaunch of the HoJo food and beverage operations.
Above: This former HoJo Restaurant in Lake George, NY is slated to re-open, according to the Times-Union.
UPDATE: August 3, 2014: Since the story below was written, it has been learned that the restaurant will re-open as the Lake George Family Restaurant. However, the restaurant will sell items such as Fried Clams, Clam Chowder, and ice cream, all signature items at HoJo's.
The restaurant should be open for business by mid-August. The HoJo signage, orange roof an dcupola will also remain.