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Howard Johnson’s being sold to Simply Gourmet owners

March 20, 2015
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The owners of Simply Gourmet and Big Mountain Deli & Creperie have purchased the historic Howard Johnson's restaurant and plan to expand Simply Gourmet and open a new restaurant there.

Howard Johnson's last day will be March 31, a week from Tuesday, restaurant owner Mike Butler said. Howard Johnson's was once a booming restaurant chain, pervasive in the 1960s and 1970s, but there are only three remaining in the entire county: one in Bangor, Maine, a newly reopened one in Lake George, and the Lake Placid eatery that's about to close.

The Butler family has owned the Lake Placid HoJo's since 1958. They sold it for an undisclosed amount.

Article Photos

Holly Healy, right, co-owner of Simply Gourmet, and Executive Chef Suzy Delucia discuss their menu Friday afternoon at the restaurant’s current location at 1983 Saranac Ave. Simply Gourmet will soon move into the current home of Howard Johnson’s restaurant, which the Healey family is buying.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)

Simply Gourmet has outgrown its current location on 1983 Saranac Ave., where it has been since 2006, owner Holly Healy said. She said the Howard Johnson's building will give their business more parking, kitchen and dining space so they can expand.

"We just received the final approval," Healy said of the sale. "It's just a matter of paperwork now."

The plan is for Simply Gourmet to relocate and occupy the left side of the Howard Johnson's building, and for a new restaurant called the 'Dack Shack - short for Adirondack Shack - to be located inside the right side of HoJo's, where the counters are. A reception room would be located at the rear of the building.

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Howard Johnson's is expected to change hands in April. After a renovation, Simply Gourmet and the 'Dack Shack are tentatively set to open their doors at the new location at the beginning of May or June at latest, Healy said.

Eat Simply, the parent company of Simply Gourmet and Big Mountain Deli & Creperie, is owned by Holly and Mickey Healy and Holly's daughter Phoebe Burns.


Simply Gourmet


Simply Gourmet, known for its breakfast and sandwich menus and specialty foods, has plans for new improvements with the added space of the HoJo's building.

Healy said one improved service will be an expanded coffee bar, including espresso drinks.

Simply Gourmet also plans to expand the products it offers, including retail groceries, bakery goods, meats, seafood and locally grown products.

Healy said her customers have reacted enthusiastically to the news.

"Awesome," said lawyer Ron Briggs, a regular customer of Simply Gourmet who was eating there Friday afternoon. "I think the best operation in town is right here. The only thing missing is more seats."


'Dack Shack


Healy described the new restaurant as a "high-end roadside diner" serving serve a variety of all-American food. Healy said hamburgers will be a big part of the menu.

"We basically want a place where you can get a great burger," she said.

Among new items on the menu, there will also be a familiar one - HoJo's clam roll.

Suzy Delucia, Simply Gourmet's executive chef, and chef Rob Borden crafted the 'Dack Shack's new menu. Borden last year gained national attention by joining celebrity chef Guy Fieri on a Food Network reality show, "Guy's Grocery Games."

Chef Richard Walos, formerly a chef for The Cowboy, will lead the 'Dack Shack's kitchen beginning this summer.

The 'Dack Shack will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it will have a bar.


Butler Room


A large private dining room at the rear of the building will be named the Butler Room, after the former owners. The room will be used for private events like anniversaries, baby showers and small weddings. It will be able to host up to 100 guests.

The new owners of the HoJo's building also plan to invite community clubs to continue to meet there.


HoJo's closing


"On behalf of my parents, Ronald and Jeanine, I'd like to thank the customers," Mike Butler said. "It's definitely time to get out of the restaurant business for our family."

Healy said she estimates they will hire 20 new employees and up to 40 (including seasonal) employees during the summer. Some of those hires will be Howard Johnson's current employees. Mike Butler said others will work for his family's hotel, the Comfort Inn, next door to Howard Johnson's. The Butlers do not plan to sell the hotel.

Mike Butler said he was happy the building would go to a local family but that he had mixed emotions about his family selling the restaurant.

"It's a little sad for us," he said, "but it's a weight off our shoulders."



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