Photos February 28, 2004: Scott Sargent
St. Joseph, Missouri -- 3708 Frederick Ave
Located adjacent to the East Hills Shopping Center, the St. Joseph Howard Johnson's Restaurant was opened in 1965 or '66. Unfortunately the Orange Roof was not as popular in the St. Joseph market as had been hoped, and to boost volume the Restaurant was converted into the Howard Johnson Company's Ground Round concept in the early 1970s.

As a Ground Round, the Restaurant did so well that it remained a corporate property through HoJo's many trials and tribulations. In fact when Howard Johnson's was sold and split apart by Marriott and Prime Motor Inns in 1985, the St. Joseph restaurant was retained by Imperial Group, then HoJo's former owner. Note that Imperial did not sell the Ground Round Chain when it sold Howard Johnson's, and contrary to a Wikipedia entry, Howard Johnson's had nothing to do with Ground Round after 1985 since by that time the Howard Johnson Company no longer existed!

Above, Below & Lower: Orange Roof to Ground Round conversions usually rendered interiors unrecognizable, but exteriors like St. Joseph's remained completely recognizable--right down to the circa 1960s "HoJo's Arizona cactus" stone treatment.


Following HoJo's break up, Ground Round expanded and upgraded its offerings--at one point there were well over 200 locations throughout the United States. Imperial (HoJo's owner from late 1979 until 1985) which had retained the Ground Round concept experienced financial problems of its own and eventually divested most of its holdings including Ground Round. In 1998 American Hospitality Concepts Inc. (AHC), unrelated to Imperial Group, was created and it owned the Ground Round name and operated many of the restaurants. Under the direction of former HJ executive Thomas Russo, it was hoped that there would be a prosperous future for the former Howard Johnson Ground Round concept.

But AHC's existence was due largely to a mountain of debt which finally smothered it and its Ground Round Restaurants. On Friday, February 13, 2004 ACH abruptly closed all of its company owned units and declared bankruptcy. Franchisees were left to fend for themselves, and hundreds of ACH's employees were suddenly unemployed. In all, about 60 locations of the 150 or so were closed including the the St. Joseph unit which had been open for well over 30 years.


Photos October 2005: Phil Edwards

A group of Ground Round Franchisees (Independent Owners Cooperative, LLC) purchased AHC's assets out of the bankruptcy proceedings and remade Ground Round into a franchisee owned operation. It was perhaps only the second time in U.S. hospitality history that franchisees became their own franchisors (Ironically it was a similar model that was used when FAI was created to maintain Howard Johnson's Restaurant in 1986)!

The St. Joseph unit was purchased and reopened as a franchise of the new organization. It was substantially renovated with new logo signage and a large entry-o-stucco was appended to the front of the building.

Above: An earlier logo sign remained in place at St. Joseph after it was reopened.

Photos June 2005: Mark Shannon

The purpose of this site is informational. It is neither commercial nor representative of any brand, company, or business. Trade names, trademarks, etc. that are depicted remain the property of their respective owners. Please contact this site's owner prior to reproducing any part of it. Works from contributors (includes photographs, ephemera, etc.) must not be reproduced without their explicit consent.