by Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, February 2, 2001
HAMPTON — After a quarter century in business on Winnacunnet Road, Friendly's Restaurant closed its doors last week, a presumed victim of declining sales and subsequent re-organization by its parent company.
Since it opened in 1975, the Hampton Friendly's had offered sandwiches, drinks, ice cream and desserts to a loyal group of patrons. It also served as a hang-out for after-school Winnacunnet High School and Hampton Academy Junior High students, who would congregate in the parking lot for hours after classes, or sit at tables inside, sipping on Coke and nibbling on French fries.
A printed sign on the front door announced the restaurant's demise this week. "Friendly's Ice Cream Corp. of Wilbraham, Mass., is sad to announce the closing of this restaurant. Thank you for your patronage, and do visit our restaurants in Exeter and Portsmouth," the sign reads.
According to company officials, more than 100 Friendly's outlets are closing throughout the Northeast.
Friendly's Ice Cream Corporation, based in Wilbraham, Mass., operates shops and restaurants, either company-owned or franchised, in 17 states. The company owns 459 stores while 120 are franchised. Most of the company's holdings are in the Northeast.
The company has suffered through a general downturn in business recently.
Total revenues company-wide totaled $161.8 million in the third quarter of 2000, compared to $192.1 million in 1999. Net income in the third quarter of 2000 was $3.2 million, compared to $5.2 the year before.
On March 27, 2000, the company announced the immediate closing of 80 "under-performing" company-owned restaurants, and the closing of another 70 restaurants within the next 24 months.
Company officials attributed the downturn in business last year to "cool summer weather in the Northeast."
A spokesman for the Portsmouth Friendly's said some former Hampton employees are working at the Portsmouth restaurant. "We've hired two Hampton employees, and we're trying to make room for more," the spokesman said.