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A Final Night at Friendly's

Sunday was an emotional day for customers and staff of the West Caldwell establishment which has closed its doors after more than four decades.

After more than 40 years, the Friendly’s in West Caldwell served its final meals Sunday.

The family-style restaurant was loved by area residents for its special sundaes, and served as a gathering place for the young and young at heart.

On Sunday, customers came for one last time, as the staff kept its composure despite the reality of the restaurant’s impending closing.

Vern Carter, General Manager for , said he will miss the regular customers and getting to meet new ones.

“Nov. 20 would have been one year for me at this location,” Carter said.

The West Caldwell location of the national restaurant opened in the late 1960s. Over the years the menu has grown and changed and the décor has been updated to include vintage images of Friendly's restaurants. Outside the restaurant is one of the township’s oldest trees, a Cucumber Magnolia that dates back more than 100 years.

Tina Cardella grew up in Roseland and would to go to Friendly's as a kid. Once she became a mother, she started bringing her kids to the restaurant. "I am sorry to see it close and will especially miss the employees, Marlet, Jonathan and Andrea. Their friendliness and great service will be missed most."

Andrea Dominguez, one of the Friendly's employees mentioned by Cardella, has worked at the restaurant for four years. She said the news of the closing “came too fast with not enough time to process!”

For Dominguez, the restaurant was a home away from home and she was on a first-name basis with many of her customers.

“Mrs. Tina, Stevey and the little sweeties. Mrs. Michele and Jules and my favorite elderly couples who were young at heart and always telling jokes like, ‘My favorite thing at Friendly's is a sundae on this fine Sunday.'"

Jules Luciano, of Caldwell, said, "They really liked working with the kids. And where will me and my friends go now for lunch and ice cream?”

According to the company’s website, the restaurant chain started as Friendly Ice Cream in Springfield, Mass. in 1935.

Michele Luciano contributed to this article.

Barbara October 24, 2011 at 07:03 PM
So sad to see Friendly's close after all this time. I will certainly miss going there.
bbbnto October 24, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Who is going to take care of the Cucumber Magnolia tree on its property?
Michele Luciano October 24, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Thank you Teresa! I was more than happy to propose and create such a story because not only is this a sad loss of a fun family restaurant in our community, but an even greater loss for many who will no longer even have a job! Im just glad we were able to run it to let people know and who knows, perhaps too if anyone is looking to hire someone, they might consider one of them. Im sorry too, to see another part of our history go. Friendly's and the wonderful staff will surely be missed!
Lisa Lionheart October 24, 2011 at 09:05 PM
how many readers remember Friendly's was THE place to go after middle school student nights?
Ellen Coughlin October 24, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Very sorry to learn about this. This was a great place for parents with young kids, and an ideal place for older kids to meet with their friends and gain some independence.
bbbnto October 24, 2011 at 09:30 PM
This was a great place...especially when our children were young. A great place to take the kids after a game. They'd all pile into the store, and lift the dividers between the booths and it was a blast. All of them laughing and screaming about the game. All while eating ice cream and sodas. Then on a nice Summer night, we remember eating ice cream outside by the Cucumber Magnolia tree! It will sorely be missed. As the kids got older, they'd drive themselves there and have fun with their friends. A relatively cheap date, and a great time. Our kids literally grew up with Friendly's. Everytime we'd pass the store, they would scream for us to stop for ice cream, "I see the tree Dad, are we stopping at Friendly's?" Even when it was 10 degrees outside, they wanted Friendly's ice cream. We'd even let the kids "drive" the car in the parking lot (oops, was I not supposed to say that?) sitting on our knees and steering to the far parking spots. This store was a true icon for the Caldwells.
Nathan October 25, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Sorry to see you go, but have you tried the new Soft Serve at Burger King?
Michael October 25, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Very sad to hear, wife and I have been going since we were little. When I told my kids this morning they were shocked also. Wish I knew so I could have taken them for one more round of Monster Mash Sunday and Make Your Own.
Robert Thiemann October 25, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Ow what a shock! I grew up hanging out there from middle school, to waiting for fire calls or ambulance calls when on the local depts, to bringing my kids there for parties and special dinners. When my daughter and I go out for a special father daughter night, that was usually the go to place! So many memories! Best of luck to all those who worked there. Thank you for the good times and memories!
Jessica Wilson October 27, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Very sad and surprised to hear of the closing. I enjoy taking my son there because it's one place a two-year-old can BE a two-year-old without worrying about disturbing others. More depressed about the prospects of what will replace it. ANOTHER Italian restaurant? Or perhaps a business complex. Whatever it is, it will never replace what was had in the Friendly's. A great loss for the community.
Nitsuj October 29, 2011 at 05:58 PM
I am so sad to hear that. I used to go to friendlys many times when I was younger. the best food was the cheese quesadillas and the Reeses Peanut Butter cup Sunday. First the loss of Pizza hut and now this!
gregory l. mitchell June 04, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Somewhat late at this stage to make a comment about Friendly's,however I can remember when my Telephone Co. lineman partner pulled in with a trailer load of poles es parked way down in the back of the lot out of the way.I ordered(really now)A"Big Beef Cheeseburg Special" with a Junior Fribble" my mouth is watering now.LoLSeriously,though that is what I do miss.The sauce,tomato,lettuce!Oh well nothing is forever,I was 27 or 28 then,today I'm retired. Respectfully,Gregory L.Mitchell-West Caldwell

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