Yesterday’s Food And Retail by Grady Ellis (Editorial)
Yesterday’s Food and Retail by Carrollton resident Grady Ellis is an editorial series brought to you by The City Menus, LLC. The following piece is unedited and in its original state. In no way does it reflect the views or opinions of The City Menus, LLC or its additional contributors.
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Once upon a time, in many towns and cities across our area it was commonplace to find a Shoney’s in many towns throughout the Southeast and Midwestern United States, and a popular stop for a meal from the breakfast bar in the morning, or the buffet in the afternoon or evenings, or simply order from the menu with many tasty options. Let’s take a look back at one of the mainstays of the modern era of dining.
In 1947, Alex Schoenbaum opened the Parkette Drive In in Charleston, West Virginia next to his Father’s bowling alley. In 1952, Schoenbaum would become a Big Boy franchisee and in 1955 after a local public vote on a name, Parkette’s Big Boy Shoppes would become Shoney’s Big Boy, and the chain would instantly catch fire. Scheonbaum sub franchised Shoney’s, and they’d grow throughout the Southeast, excluding Florida. The reason due to rights to the Big Boy name belonged to fellow franchisee Frisch’s.
As Shoney’s Big Boy would double its size every four years they would become Big Boy’s largest franchise. As Shoney’s was on the top in regards to Big Boy, a man named Raymond Danner, whom joined the Shoney’s franchise in 1959 would take the top in regards to Shoney’s, by 1971 acquiring the chain, and in 1969; Shoney’s introduced a fast food concept onto the market, named after its largest franchisee as Mr. D’s. The chain would later change its name to Captain D’s and would begin a trail of success, meanwhile back to Shoney’s. In the 1970s, Shoney’s was on the Stock Exchange, and incredibly successful and growing as the interstates expanded and in 1975 founded Shoney’s Inn, and towns such as ours began to grow and expand. Shoney’s also had quite the corporate portfolio at various points referring to Captain D’s and Shoney’s Inn. Shoney’s had four casual dining concepts and a fried chicken chain that was beloved in Carrollton, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken. In 1979, Shoney’s Big Boy would make its debut in Carrollton on Bankhead Highway and would be the first location to open in the West Georgia area, as Douglasville, Newnan, Lithia Springs, and LaGrange following within the next ten years.
Shoney’s was extremely successful in the 1980s, as people loved the Breakfast Bar and then a buffet for lunch in the afternoons. However in 1984, things changed as Shoney’s broke affiliation with Big Boy, dropping the name, and the little boy statue holding the burger from their restaurants and their growth had moved them into territory with other Big Boy franchises that caused problems and led to Shoney’s becoming its own brand after being the largest franchise for the iconic chain.
At its peak, Shoney’s had over 1,300 locations across 34 states. By the 1990s, things began to turn the other way for Shoney’s. In the mid 1990s, our local location would receive a facelift, and then not long after close its doors which came as a surprise. Shoney’s was beginning to face struggle, and would begin to close locations, and by 2000, would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and would be acquired by an investment group called Lone Star Funds, to sale on New Years of 2007 to its current owner, David Davoudpour.
Over the years before 2007 Shoney’s had divested of Captain D’s, Shoney’s Inn, and Lee’s Chicken and locations closed throughout the 34 states it once had a hold on through the 1990s and the new century and by the end of the 2000s, Shoney’s would introduce some new concepts to compete with its rivals such as Shoney’s On The Go, and some locations today feature a bar along with its breakfast bar.
Shoney’s closed its last location in our area a few years ago in Lithia Springs, Georgia and for a short time in the 2010s, made a return to Newnan in the Ashley Park area before too closing. Whenever I am traveling and I see a Shoney’s I make sure to make a stop. The closest locations today to us are located in Oxford, Alabama and Cartersville, Georgia. Shoney’s as of recent has around 150 restaurants in 16 states throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern United States, a far cry from its prime.
2017 is 70 years since Alex Schoenbaum opened the restaurant we’d come to know as Shoney’s and has long been a favorite restaurant to many, including myself. People long enjoyed their breakfast bar, and their desserts they are popular for. After a recent visit I can safely tell you Shoney’s is still the same great restaurant it’s always been to me, and is also missed by many in Carrollton. But whenever I want some Shoney’s, at least there’s an excellent location in Oxford, Alabama awaiting me.