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Well-Known Franchises Whose Original Locations Are Still In Business

Updated September 15, 2017 18 items

Fast food origins are the stuff of myth and mythbusting. As last year's excellent The Founder illustrates, perhaps the mix of true history and corporate self-promotion that characterize fast food origin stories is best untangled by dramatization and the movies. As Roy Kroc, Michael Keaton plays the stumbling, then later ruthless entrepreneur who bought out the McDonald brothers' original store, then made it the namesake of his empire. While each chain has its own unique history, animated by colorful business personalities, corporate feuding, and the speed which goes along with the product, the McDonalds' story is typical in an industry which thrives on relocation. But for few others, the original location survives quietly in the outskirts of American suburbias or proudly as a part of a larger national marketing strategy. Here are the hold-outs, original stores of franchised cafes, vendors, and restaurants, where early history is often buried in corporate make-overs and buy-outs.

  • P. F. Chang's (7135 Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ)
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    The popular Chinese restaurant is actually the brain-child of Paul Fleming, an oil-man from Louisiana.  With his business partner, the chef Philip Chiang, Fleming conceived of a restaurant (P.F., for "Paul Fleming" and Chang -- "i" omitted for Chiang) that would combine a Chinese menu and nouveau cuisine.  For the first location, Chiang and Fleming chose Scottsdale Fashion Mall, the second most profitable retail space in the U.S.. "We got 1,000 customers the first weekend," Chiang recollects.  The mall location would be duplicated for many of the more than 200 restaurant (Terra-Cotta warriors no longer an unfamiliar sight in suburbia).     

  • Before the advent of the 2,010 calorie milkshake and the political rise of former CEO (now governor of Arizona), the ice-cream conglomerate was a struggling mom and pop store.  Owner Donald Sutherland (no relation to the Canadian actor) reminisced, "I had days where I did less than $6." Some good press declaring the ice-cream "best in town," helped, and the parlor moved to its current location across the street on an inconspicuous strip mall, today, Store #0001. With 1,200 chilled granite slabs in operation, Cold Stone is now the sixth leading ice-cream seller in the U.S.. 

  • A stomping "ground" for UC-Berkeley students, this fixture of the North Shattuck has a definitive place in both bohemia and the history of drink. It is here in 1966 Arthur Peet, a Dutch immigrant and tea-trader, introduced the uncommon practice of roasting Arabica beans for fresh hot coffee.  In subsequent decades, Peet would herald other significant changes in the way Americans and the globe drank their coffee (Jerry Baldwin and other "peetniks" founded Starbucks). Make sure to check out the museum, a modest collection of coffee-brewing artifacts and articles in the back of the store, which narrates the story of Peet's, from the first store to its billion dollar private stock offering.  

  • Blimpie (110 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ)
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    April 4th, 1964: a day redolent of oil, vinegar, Italian spices, and nostalgia.  You might guess without even knowing all the specifics, it was on this day that three high school buddies from Jersey City started a submarine sandwich shop. But not Nostradamus himself could predict the future success of their venture--several hundred million sandwiches later. The chain recently celebrated its 50th anniversary by offering 50 cent subs nationwide, well within the 35 to 90 cents range the Washington store charged for its original menu (9 different sandwiches).