CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Despite constant rumors over the past year that it would never reopen, hundreds of social media posts are celebrating Wednesday’s planned opening of the iconic Boulevard Shoney’s Restaurant in Charleston.
The sign out front had changed Monday. Where it had declared “opening soon” for months, it now says, “open Mother’s Day.”
The reopening comes after months of doubt, spurred by the company’s tight-lipped policy about their plans. Media inquiries were either met with no response or unclear comments.
Shoney’s Restaurants began on Charleston’s Kanawha Boulevard (known simply as “the Boulevard” to locals), although not at the present location.
The Shoney’s chain grew from the original Parkette Drive-in and Bowling Alley which opened on the capital city’s West Side in 1947. The original Shoney’s, located about a mile further West on the Boulevard from the current location, closed in December 1975. A large Big Boy statue marks that location.
A former All-American football player for Ohio State moved to town in 1943. Alex Schoenbaum opened what he named the Parkette four years later.
The business expanded rapidly when Schoenbaum acquired the Southeastern franchise for the Big Boy hamburger chain, eventually becoming the country’s largest with 1.300 locations. An employee suggestion resulted in the name change from Parkette to Shoney’s.
Schoenbaum himself was a fixture at the Boulevard locations over the years.
In 1971, Schoenbaum sold his interest to Captain D’s founder and Shoney’s franchise holder Ray Danner of Nashville, Tennessee. Shoney’s dropped its affiliation with the Big Boy franchise and transformed mostly into a buffet restaurant.
Many speculated on social media that local locations would not reopen. Then came word from employees who were called back to work that the Boulevard location would reopen Wednesday.
“Bring on the mashed potatoes!” one fan posted on Facebook “Strawberry pie!” exclaimed another. “Hot fudge cake,” said a third.
Others were tagging friends and many expressed excitement. “Never thought I’d eat at that bar again,” wrote another. “I’ll be there Wednesday, maybe for both the breakfast and dinner bars.”
Buffet-type restaurants have suffered greatly because of the Covid pandemic with most closing their doors. Multiple customers touching serving utensils were the major concern.
But Chinese buffets began reopening recently, solving the problem by requiring patrons to wear throwaway plastic gloves. Most were doing a swift business after the change.
In Beckley, for example, reopening of the Golden Corral buffet restaurant was widely anticipated this month.
Plans for other area Shoney’s locations were not as clear this week. Corporate headquarters, now in Nashville, remained tight-lipped. Social media focused on such locations as Quincy, also in Kanawha County, and sitting inactive since the pandemic began.
The chain had already become smaller over the years. A location in Kanawha City closed years ago along with others in Dunbar and St. Albans. The one in Logan also went out of business.
But it’s safe to say, if one can rely on social media as an indication, the Boulevard Shoney’s should be a hit.