Monday, February 25, 2019

Not Fricking Anybody


I was preschool-aged when our local McDonald’s moved from its 1970s-built dark brick mansard on Main Street to a new building on the north side of town, near the Walmart where land was quickly being developed. The old McDonald’s building was purchased by the city and is still in use today as offices for the public utilities department, still looking very much like it did when it was a McDonald’s. Ever since that McDonald’s became a municipal building, I’ve been fascinated by buildings with distinctive, recognizable corporate image architecture being reused for entirely new purposes. I’m not the only person with this fascination, as the Not Fooling Anybody website and subreddit, which are devoted to pictures of hastily-converted fast food and other retail buildings, came into existence to cater to people with the same interest.

I’ve explored this interest here on Broken Chains in the past, by both documenting the former Taco Tico buildings in and around Lexington, Kentucky and by going hunting on Google Earth for former G.D. Ritzy’s buildings. I was recently inspired to explore my interest further following one of my many trips down I-75 in Ohio.

I happened to make a pit stop in Bowling Green, at an exit I had never previously explored. On my way back to the highway, I drove past a Fricker’s, and had to stop to take pictures of it.

The Fricker's in Bowling Green, Ohio...
Fricker’s is a regional chain of sports bars mainly in Western Ohio. They seem to be doing reasonably well, and do not meet my definition of a broken chain. Likewise, I’m not a massive fan of sports, bars, or sports bars, so their food and atmosphere are of little interest to me. My interest in Fricker’s is due to their expansion strategy, which seems to consist mainly of converting existing structures with few exterior changes beyond a coat of red paint and the addition of some stripey awnings. 

...would have originally looked a lot like the still-operational Dutch Pantry in Williamstown, West Virginia.
The Fricker’s I passed in Bowling Green was housed in a Dutch Pantry building which seemed to have had minimal modifications. It even still sported the trapezoidal Dutch Pantry sign frame. A little Google Street View research revealed two additional Fricker’s housed in former Dutch Pantry buildings. Unsurprisingly, the other two Dutch Pantry Fricker’s are located along I-75 as well, specifically in Perrysburg and Findlay. Dutch Pantry’s strategy was (and still is!) to cater to travelers, so most, if not all Dutch Pantry locations were built along major highways. 

Another Dutch Pantry Fricker's in Findlay, Ohio...

...and a third in Perrysburg, Ohio

Having found multiple Fricker’s locations in old Dutch Pantry buildings, I was intrigued. I had to see if any other husks of failed chain restaurants had been assimilated by Fricker’s. Naturally, I sat down and looked at all 25 Fricker’s on Google Street View, because that kind of thing is my idea of a fun Saturday night. I found a good many nondescript Fricker’s locations set up in strip malls, but roughly as many operating out of the buildings that once housed outlets of broken chains.

Located in Adrian, Michigan's only Fricker's is a former Ponderosa. 
Huber Heights, Ohio is also home to a Frickerosa.
While the facade of the Miamisburg Fricker's makes you remember not only The Alamo, but Lone Star Steakhouse as well. 
I see a quite a few empty and reused Ponderosas in my travels. At this point, they outnumber the operational ones, so it’s not terribly surprising to see a pair of Fricker’s locations housed in former Ponderosa buildings. Likewise, all but four of the 265 Lone Star Steak House locations have closed, so it’s not terribly surprising to see one painted red and serving as a Fricker’s. 

Look close at the tall trapezoid on the left of the Middletown, Ohio Fricker's. It once held a Chi-Chi's sign... did this Fricker's in Springfield, Ohio. 

Of all the Fricker’s locations I found, though, I was most delighted by the locations in Middletown and Springfield, Ohio. Both are obvious former Chi-Chi’s, still sporting the prominent vestiges of Chi-Chi’s signature adobe architecture under a fresh coat of Fricker’s red paint. (Sadly, there are no Chi-Chi’s locations left in North America, though Hormel still sells a line of Chi-Chi’s-branded grocery items here. There are still Chi-Chi’s locations open in Europe, and you better believe I’ll eat at Chi-Chi’s if I’m ever in Luxembourg.) Well-preserved Chi-Chi’s buildings are becoming increasingly rare. Most have been demolished or renovated beyond recognition, and I think their light touch is with their buildings is what has drawn me to Fricker’s.

When the larger chains take over an existing location, they’ll often erect new facades and erase any hint of the building’s original purpose. While in Fricker’s case it’s more likely due to a limited construction budget than an attempt at historical preservation, they walk a delicate line, adding their own corporate image to a building without significantly altering its original shape, thereby preserving its connection to a struggling, defunct, or otherwise diminished brand.

I’ve never set foot in a Fricker’s, and I probably never will, but I hold them in higher regard than I do other sports bar chains, which I also avoid, simply because they give historic chain restaurant buildings a second chance at life when most other chains would heavily modify or raze them. In a time when such buildings are becoming endangered, it’s nice to see them getting regular use with a moderately high degree of preservation.

Below are a few Fricker’s locations I could not definitively identify. I’ve captioned them with their location, and my best guess as to what I think they might have originally been. Please comment below or email me if you can tell me if any of my guesses are right or wrong. 

2599 W Michigan St, Sidney, Ohio
I think this may be a former Ryan's Steakhouse. What say you, dear reader?

An anonymous contributor tells me this was previously a location of CJ's Highmarks, a local chain in Western Ohio. 

1580 Goodman Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio
This looks like a former Steak and Ale to me. Who can confirm or tell me different?

Edit: Mike from Houston Historic Retail tells me this is a former Cambridge Inn Cafeteria

8850 Governors Hill Dr, Cincinnati, OH
This one has me feeling pretty stumped, but I get a vague Joe's Crab Shack vibe from it. I'm probably wrong, but who knows what it actually is?

Edit: Multiple sources tell me this building was originally a Cooker restaurant.

Also, don’t forget to like the Broken Chains Facebook page to see when the blog has been updated. I also post a bonus picture every now and then.

Edit: My head Lucky Steer Correspondent, Map Cat, shared a link to this grain-tastic 2007 vintage Street View image of the Richmond, Idiana Fricker's that shows the Fricker's sign in an old Lucky Steer sign frame, meaning that the Richmond, Indiana Fricker's is likely a former Lucky Steer. 


  1. Roosters is another chain that is repurposing closed restaurant buildings and they typically don't give their new sites as much paint as Frickers. Frickers appears to be mostly in the central and southwest Ohio, with expansions into Kentucky.

    1. Cool! I've seen Roosters locations in my travels before. I'll have to do an in depth Street View review of them one of these days to see if I can spot any interesting specimens.

    2. Roosters and fricker's we're started by a pair of brothers who had a falling out. Ray Frick used to come to my bar probably the best tipper I've ever had.

  2. I saw that you found an answer for Governor's Hill as Cookers, so I thought I'd look into Goodman Ave. for you. Turns out it was part of a Cafeteria Called Cambridge Inn.

    Some more info on Cambridge Inn:

    1. Awesome! Thanks for tracking that down. I didn't know about that chain previously. I'm sad that cafeterias have all but disappeared in my part of the world.

  3. @Mark Osbourne: coincidentally, Roosters and Frickers are owned by brothers

    The Frickers in Richmond, Indiana used to be a Lucky Steer. The sign was the same in 2007 (since replaced), and although I can't find any photos of the building when it was a Lucky Steer, the shape of the Frickers looks similar enough to other Lucky Steer buildings,-84.8877255,3a,75y,20.27h,101.53t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s3ahX9KX2TK_nA3-HZibYcQ!2e0!5s20080901T000000!7i3328!8i1664

    1. Ownership by brothers would explain quite a few of the similarities shared by the chains. Sadly, I believe Ray Frick passed away a year or two ago.

      I think you're right about the Richmond Indiana location. The sign looks very similar to the sign at the Lucky Steer in Wapakoneta. Thanks for the tip about that place by the way. Expect a post about them soon.

    2. I'd missed that Rooster's and Fricker's were originally owned by brothers, that's interesting.

      I've eaten at the former Ponderosa Rooster's on 741 in Miamisburg a few times. It was a quicker drive from work than the Frickers in Moraine (that sadly burnt down).

  4. Glad to see you made the front page on Imgur! Was going to let you know that Taco Tico will be resurrected, they have new business partners putting money into it to bring more of them around Lexington and surrounding cities in KY.

    1. Thanks! I was surprised to see how much my Imgur post resonated with people. I didn't expect nearly that much attention.

      I heard about Taco Tico's rebirth in Lexington. The most exiting part of which is the former Arby's that's set to be the site of the new location was originally built as a G.D. Ritzy's. In fact, of the four Ritzy's buildings that were constructed in Lexington, it's the last one left. I'm overjoyed to see my favorite fast food taco joint moving into a building once occupied by my favorite fast food burger joint. It's almost as if they had consulted me to recommend a locaiton. (They didn't, but it worked out very nicely.)

  5. The Fricker's in Maumee, OH is in an old Victoria Station restaurant.