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...
|...would have originally looked a lot like the still-operational Dutch Pantry in Williamstown, West Virginia.
|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...
|...as 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
|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.