Curtis was 18 and Prestley was 20 when they borrowed $547 from their parents to open the first shop in 1935, after having trouble finding summer jobs during the Great Depression. Amazingly, both brothers are still alive; Curtis is 99 and Prestley is 101!
Think Curtis and Prestley are enjoying a hands-off retirement? Think again. Hours after Friendly’s announced that Dean Foods would be taking over its ice cream business on May 11, Prestley purchased 100,000 shares of Dean Foods stock, saying "I wanted to show my support to Dean Foods. I want people to know that I think about Friendly every single day." He’s also currently auctioning off a faithful replica of Monticello he had built on a whim. As for Curtis, he was most recently in the news last October, when he got into a spat with a school he’d donated $1 million to.
Looking to diversify its portfolio, Hershey Foods purchased Friendly’s from the Blake brothers for $162 million in 1979. Within six years the chain expanded to 740 locations, but the company had trouble keeping up with the growth, and the proliferation of fast food chains cut into its business. Hershey’s sold the chain to a company called TRC in 1988 for $375 million.
Believe it or not, the brand name didn’t officially become “Friendly’s” until 1989, even though the company had colloquially been called that for decades by then. The company is still officially known as the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation.
A major complaint among diners during the chain’s rough patch in the early 2000s was the lack of friendliness, ironically, of the chain’s employees. Subsequently, all employees were forced to re-interview and be re-hired, and were retrained if they made the cut. Today, the employee who mans the soda fountain is called a “scoopologist,” and wait staff are called “memory makers” (seriously).
In July 2013, Friendly’s hosted an old-fashioned ice cream social under a tent on the lawn in front of its Wilbraham, Massachusetts, headquarters. 794 guests attended, making it the world’s largest ice cream party. Guinness representatives were on hand to make it official.
Every Valentine’s Day, Friendly’s hosts a “Cones for Kids” fundraiser to benefit the charity Easter Seals. Over the years, more than $23 million has been raised through the partnership.
If you want to treat yourself to a scoop of chocolate ice cream at Friendly’s, it’s not too bad for you, with only 110 calories and six grams of fat. The chain’s unhealthiest ice cream flavor is Hunka Chunk PB Fudge, which contains 180 calories and 11 grams of fat per scoop.