As anyone who's recently peeled his caboose off a hot vinyl seat
knows, winter is, as you say, over. And anyone who's driven up
to the Skyline Drive this summer knows that Hojo's, usually in
full swing by the end of July, looks suspiciously like a restaurant
that has served its last platter.
friend is an unhappy thought. If you're like Ace, you probably
count family meals at Hojo's among your fondest childhood memories.
When he was just a pup, nothing made lil' Ace happier than a "Frankfort,"
that square-bun grilled hot dog treat, and a bog scoop of one
of Hojo's 28 ice cream flavors.
the mere sight of an orange roof with turquoise trim is enough
to make my belly tingle. Yet as many patrons know, the last two
decades have been unkind to the once-ubiquitous franchise.
In the 1970s, this proud nation boasted more than 1000 Hojo's
eateries. Now, just a 10th of those wholesome, all - you - can
- fry establishments remain. Counting the Afton location, Virginia
has only six. Upon receiving your letter, Chilly, I could only
guess that the Afton Hojo's had become the latest casualty in
the downfall of a delicious dynasty.
the worst, I scaled the mountain, Ace pick-axe in tow, and peeked
into the darkened interior. The place was dead. No sign or smell
of those famous fried clams. Back at the desk at Ace headquarters
I made a call to Hojo's owner James "Phil" Dulaney and
solved the mystery. Last December, Dulaney explains, he closed
the restaurant for the winter, planing to re-open it by early
April. Yet when hiring time came around, a shortage of local workers
apparently forced Dulaney to keep Hojo's doors locked. Must be
the downside of Charlottesville's exceptionally
unemployment rate. Dulaney, who own a cluster of high-altitude
businesses--the Skyline Parkway Motel, the Afton Inn, and a steak-centric
restaurant called, um, Dulaney's, along with Hojo's--says he needs
100 workers to run the entire operation. Yet as of last week he
had just 75 employees on the payroll and was short one cook at
Dulaney's. When you're short-staffed at one restaurant, he says,
it's hard to justify opening up another one merely a stone's throw
don't fret, Cliff. Dulaney doesn't plan to let Hojo's-- which
has been on Afton since the 1940s-- go gently into that goof night.
Dulaney, who has a soft spot himself for Hojo's clam chowder and
chocolate milkshakes, predicts that the restaurant will be up
and running in the next few weeks. So while you can stop shivering,
Chilly, you still might have to wait a bit longer for those nostalgia-inducing