Postcard ca. 1960s: Dan Donahue
West Springfield, Massachusetts -- 25 Park Ave

Exceptionally well-sited, the West Springfield Restaurant was a classic example of Howard Johnson's pre-WW II roadside locations designed and situated in order to appeal not just to passing motorists but also to local patrons. Long-lasting, the restaurant was an Orange Roofed HoJo's from about 1940 until 1972.

Attesting to its prime site, the unit was converted by the Howard Johnson Company into a Ground Round in 1972. After the demise of Howard Johnson's in 1985, the Ground Round chain suffered through a series of ownership changes resulted ultimately in a near catastrophic bankruptcy for the brand. Thus it is believed that the West Springfield Restaurant was a Ground Round from 1972 until about 2004--just about the same length of time as it had been an Orange Roofed eatery!

Google Street View ca. 2007

Maybe just a tax write-off... With high hopes a new chapter began for West Springfield's former HoJo's/Ground Round in July of 2006 when Stuart J. Hurwitz and his two sons Steven J. and Michael E. Hurwitz, long-time fixtures in the Springfield area, opened Rein’s Restaurant at the site in a 50/50 partnership with the Rein’s Deli located in Vernon, Connecticut.

Hurwitz, the former general manager of the Springfield Civic Center and former head of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, used his political connections in order to facilitate a successful opening for his restaurant. Moreover he boasted that West Springfield Mayor Edward Gibson made his family feel welcome, and that the mayor had invited him to a meeting with the town officials who dealt with permitting and licensing and reported that "They bent over backward to help us ... It’s a business atmosphere the mayor’s creating. That’s what makes the move into West Springfield wonderful."

At its brief peak the former HJ/GR operating as Rein's employed as many as 110 workers, but when it closed for good on January 4, 2010 the by then struggling restaurant only had about 40 employees.

Photos January 2010: Joe Fay

By April of 2010 the former Rein’s Restaurant at the North End bridge rotary at Route 5 had been sold at auction to Ashok Patel for $500,000. He said that he had no immediate plans for the 5,400 square foot restaurant property. In addition, Capital Recovery Group sold the restaurant's equipment and furnishings piece by piece to an audience of chefs, restaurant owners and equipment dealers. And most incredibly, the site's liquor license was sold separately to an un-named buyer for $200,000 (hmmm, must be a good bit of political hanky-panky in The Bay State if a derelict restaurant's liquor license is worth 200K--good grief people you need some sort of reform!?).

Perhaps in its final chapter... Michael P. Sullivan, owner of a local eatery called The Cup, purchased the former Rein’s for $520,000 in September of 2010, and planed to reopen the eatery calling it the Common Ground. He said that the new name of the restaurant was a play on words referring to the site's former Ground Round name with hopes that area diners would still associate the site with that name. Sullivan estimated that the total cost of his renovation project to be about $1 million since all of the furnishings and equipment from the Rein’s operation had been liquidated at auction and would need to be replaced.

Above & below: Joe Fay who shot these photos shortly following Rein's closure reported that the former Howard Johnson's site was a "Neat location on a Rotary/Traffic Circle--the Ground Round failed, then it went generic. It was closed and for sale in 01/2010."

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