Discover more from The Retroist
Jack Klugman, Fast Food, and NJ Turnpike Service Areas
During my work on the Quincy ME episode for the Retroist Podcast, I was reading about Jack Klugman’s love of popcorn. Klugman loved the stuff, and his name was used by a short-lived popcorn franchise called Jack’s Corn Crib.
What I discovered.
While traveling during the stage production of The Odd Couple with Tony Randall, Klugman brought a popcorn popper with him to make himself a healthy snack on the road. In an interview from 1984, Klugman said,
I ate gallons of my favorite, popcorn with garlic powder and cheese, that I made in an electric popper I carried with me. Of course, I had no friends, because with the garlic nobody would come near me.
His fandom would attract the attention of some people who would become his business partners, and in 1982 they opened the first Jack’s Corn Crib in New York City. It was hyped as a gourmet popcorn flavor wonderland with dozens of choices ranging from butter to watermelon.
This popcorn paradise didn’t last very long, though. By 1985 the trademark for the Corn Crib was abandoned and the lawsuits followed. Even Klugman was pulled into the litigation, suing his former business partner and winning a case that was filed against him for claiming he was not promoting the chain enough.
The Klugman case was messy and shows the dangers of adding your name to a restaurant. But celebrities continue to do it.
Celebrity Food Chains
It’s not clear if a famous name attached to a food chain adds to its long-term success, but the track record of a few of the most famous branded chains does not support the idea. Here are a examples:
This fast-food restaurant chain was named and co-founded in Baltimore, Maryland, by Baltimore Colts defensive end Gino Marchetti in 1957. It was restarted in 2010, but the original incarnation peaked at 359 locations in 1982 when it was bought by the Marriott Corporation. Marriott took many of those locations and convertthem into…
Marriott converted many of those Gino’s locations into Roy Rogers Restaurants. Roy Rogers started as RoBee’s Roast Beef restaurants but was sued by Arby’s for similarities. They would enter into an agreement with famed cowboy Roy Rogers to rebrand their restaurants.
At its height, the chain had 600 locations, but now they have dwindled to justfew dozen.
Arthur Treacher might not be well-known nowadays, but for a long time, he was a nearly household name. Active from the 1920s to the 1960s, he famously played English butler-types. That is why his name would come to be attached to this Fish & Chips chain that at one point had 800 locations. Nowadays, this once-mighty chain (a favorite of my Mom), has been reduced to just a handful of restaurants.
Fast Food on the New Jersey Turnpike
New Jersey has a solid history as a culinary destination. While I encourage you to sample all of the many wonderful foods in the state, many of you are just passing through. If you are, it is probably on the New Jersey Turnpike.
While the Turnpike is not considered a place for gourmets, it does have two restaurants that I mentioned above.
That’s right, as you drive the length of the Garden State you can stop at the Arthur Treacher’s at the Molly Pitcher Service Area or a Roy Rogers at the Woodrow Wilson or Walt Witman Service Areas. I would go to the Walt Witman one since it also has a Carvel.
New Jersey should go all-in on the concept of fast food tourism. Have every Rest Area have at least one historical or hard-to-find fast-food establishment. That way, people like me can spend days just driving up and down the state eating.
Getting your name on a NJ Turnpike Rest Area
All thirteen of the current Service Areas on the New Jersey Turnpike are named for a deceased famous person who has some connection to the state. The criteria of being dead and famous could apply to a lot of New Jerseyans, but unfortunately, the limitation is the number of areas. Locked at thirteen with no new ones on the horizon, a name would have to be removed or one of the formerly closed ones would have to be re-opened.
If the state didn’t do it for Frank Sinatra when he passed away, I am not sure that many other people stand a chance. Although I imagine there will be some discussion if anything ever happens to Bruce Springsteen.