Howard Johnson’s was formed in 1925 by Howard Deering Johnson. He purchased a small pharmacy with a soda fountain and quickly discovered the soda fountain section of the store was the biggest draw. He expanded the selection and improved the quality of products to much success. As lines grew longer for those waiting to get inside, he opened up small stands along the street and on the beach. The popularity of his establishment continued to grow and he decided to turn his store into a full-fledged restaurant.
Howard D. Johnson dreamed of expanding along the highways of the United States, believing the future of the U.S. would be shaped by the automobile. When the stock market crashed in 1929, he realized that dream was going to be much more difficult to achieve. Wanting to expand but without the capital to do so, Johnson drafted one of the first franchising agreements and the first franchised Howard Johnson restaurant was opened in 1932. By the end of the 1930s, more than 100 Howard Johnson’s lined the east coast. They were instantly recognizable to travelers with their signature orange roof, indicating this would be a trusted and familiar place to dine.
Capitalizing even more on the traveler’s business, Howard Johnson’s opened its first motor lodge in 1954. By the 1960s, they had expanded nationwide providing the road weary traveler with a place to eat and sleep for the night. In 1980, Howard B. Johnson (Howard D. Johnson’s son) sold the chain to Imperial Group. It was eventually bought by Mariott a few years later who split off the lodging from the restaurant chain. Today (2015), the lodging arm of Howard Johnson’s is operated by the Wyndham Worldwide. There are only two of the original restaurant locations of Howard Johnson’s still open, one in New York and one in Maine.
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