Friendly’s owner Brian Myers says there was never any question he would rebuild after the fire that gutted his Middletown franchise last summer.
“We received a tremendous outpouring of support from the community and we really can’t thank them enough,” he said this week. “Now, we’re just anxious to renew those relationships with the people we haven’t seen in a while.”
Myers will get his first opportunity to do just that when Friendly’s officially re-opens for business at 7 a.m. on April 15, almost eight years to the day after the restaurant first opened in the Dove Run shopping center off East Main Street.
The 4,600-square-foot restaurant, which had to be completely rebuilt after the June 27 blaze, features a whole new décor unique to any Friendly’s outside of New England.
“I’ve been working in Friendly’s my whole life and this is the nicest looking one I’ve ever seen,” said Myers, a New Jersey resident, who got his start as a 17-year-old dishwasher and today owns all six franchises in New Castle County. “Only 10 other Friendly’s in the country have this interior package and it’s the first one like this to be built from the ground up.”
The re-opened Friendly’s also will feature several new menu items unique to Middletown, including a Philly Cheesesteak, three types of 9” Slinky Dogs and fish tacos.
General manager Mike Myers, Brian’s cousin, said the rebuilt franchise also will employee 95 people, nearly twice the 53 who worked at the restaurant before the fire.
“We have eight additional seats now and with the re-opening, we’re hoping to be busier than what they were before,” the Middletown resident said. “About 25 employees who worked for us before the fire and transferred to other Friendly’s during the rebuilding will be coming back. We would have brought back all 53, but a lot of our staff went off to college or ended up getting other jobs.”
Both men said they are still thankful their assistant manager Dominic Rice had the presence of mind to evacuate the four employees and six customers who were in the restaurant when the fire broke out last summer.
According to the state fire marshal’s office, the blaze began about 3:30 p.m. when someone discarded a lit cigarette into the mulch outside the restaurant, sparking a fire that quickly spread up the southern side of the building before engulfing the entire restaurant.
“The biggest blessing was that no one was hurt,” Mike Myers said. “But we were also very thankful in the aftermath to find out from people just how much a part of the community we had become.”