Almost exactly 39 years after it opened, the Rutland Friendly’s Restaurant closed suddenly on Sunday.
A statement from the company said the store on Main Street and the one in Bennington both shut down Sunday.
The statement said the company was “providing short-term financial assistance, in lieu of notice” to employees.
“Friendly’s in Rutland and Bennington values its guests and thanks them for their patronage through the years,” the statement said.
By email, Mary Cohen, executive director of the Rutland Area Chamber of Commerce, said it was “always unfortunate” to see a local business close.
“Although franchise businesses like Starbucks and Five Guys are great additions to our Route 7 corridor, it is great to see independent businesses pop up that don’t have the same overhead cost structure that a franchise may have. Although business closures are inevitable for a myriad of reasons, it is also important to recognize the numerous new business that has chosen to open or expand in our region,” Cohen said.
Starbucks and Five Guys are developing sites on Route 7. But Cohen also noted another local frozen dessert location, Yogurt City, also closed recently.
Alison Krawczyk, a spokeswoman for Friendly’s, said the Rutland store opened on Dec. 11, 1979.
By email, Krawczyk said area residents can still use their Friendly’s gift cards at other sites. The company has more than 200 other locations in the Northeast U.S.
Krawczyk said the Vermont stores were closed because of evolving company policy.
“Over the past few years, Friendly’s has identified and minimized the number of locations that no longer deliver the customer experience that we are working to create. As we move forward, our goal is to open locations with improved service and value for our customers, like the restaurants that have recently opened in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and Merrimack, New Hampshire,” she said.
Tyler Richardson, executive director of the Rutland Economic Development Corp., said he didn’t believe the closure of the family restaurant, known for its ice cream, reflected badly on Rutland’s Main Street.
“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. Businesses open, businesses close. But we look at things like Five Guys or Starbucks and those other larger chains that are looking at this as a viable market to open a business, I don’t see it as a trend or an indicator of a bad business environment,” he said.
Richardson said the corporation, known as REDC, was not notified about the closure. As a result, Richardson said he hadn’t had a chance to consider future uses for the site.
However, he said with the infrastructure and visibility, Richardson said he didn’t think it would be difficult to find a new business to occupy the spot.
Also, Richardson expressed confidence the Rutland area had the right kind of restaurants to serve the customers, both local and tourists, who used to go to Friendly’s.