Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remember Arthur Treacher's, Mate?

I've still got a few more long-gone restaurants to bring up!

A few days ago, I mentioned Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, so I had to drive over to 2411 W. 21st Street and see if the building was still there. It was, (above) but it's definitely seen better days.

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Observer Blogs
Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips first showed up in the Lorain Phone Book back in 1970. The store looked very much like the photo at left.

According to a short history on the company website, 1969 was the year that the first restaurant opened in Columbus, Ohio. And this article in the Dallas Observer states that at one point, there were more than 800 locations in the United States.

It's not entirely clear why the company fell upon hard times. It could be because the type of fish used in the signature product was changed from cod to pollock in the late 1970's.

According to this wiki page, the restaurant chain's ownership began to change every few years beginning in the 1970's. Eventually, the fortunes of the company sank like a foundered flounder, resulting in bankruptcy around 1983. The company did survive, though, and is still around today. Ohio seems to have the most restaurants.

I remember that my family enjoyed Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips every once in a while. It was certainly a unique product, wrapped in its faux newspaper.

I still love fish & chips today (although it's not the healthiest meal); being married to a Canuck who also loves it means that every once in a while, we have to find a restaurant that does it up right and authentic. We really enjoy the way they make it at The Harp in Cleveland.

40th Anniversary graphic from company website
I've got to admit, however, that as a kid, I had no idea who Arthur Treacher was. I saw his image on the sign (at left), and assumed he was some retired member of British royalty by the way he was dressed, or more likely, some made-up character. When I finally saw him as a butler in an old movie, I couldn't believe there really was an Arthur Treacher!

What I didn't know was that Arthur Treacher was also Merv Griffin's announcer and sidekick, so he was more famous than I realized.

Arthur Treacher passed away in 1975. That may explain why his likeness was phased out of advertising and signage in the late 1970's.

As for the Lorain location, the restaurant disappeared from the phone book in 1982. A new restaurant, Joella's Fish & Chips, appeared at the location around 1983. It lasted roughly until 1986.

Then, strangely enough, the Lorain City Directory lists Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips at the location again in 1987 and 1988! I don't remember this comeback at all, but I was living on the east side of Lorain at that time.

Finally, a Mexican restaurant called El Pan De Vida showed up in the books at that address around 1989. It appears to have lasted until about 1993, when the address went vacant again - and entirely disappeared from the directory around the early 2000’s.

Joella's Fish & Chips ad from May 1984


-Alan D Hopewell said...

Arthur Treacher's had really good fish and chips, and a hot lemon fried pie that was fantastic. There used to be one in downtown Cleveland, in the Old Arcade on Superior Avenue.

Gary F. Stecker said...

Down here in FL, there are still Arthur Treachers. They are coupled with Miami Subs. It is not as good as the original, but is not bad.

Nurpisque said...

My father is English, and has eaten a great many fish and chips. There used to be an establishment that I only knew AS "fish and chips" in Branford Connecticut, not far from our home. It must have closed in 1989 or so (to be replaced by an Arby's that we never visited), certainly before I could read, but I remember that there was a picture of a corny looking Englishman on the sign. Years later with the internet it seemed to me that it must have been an Arthur Treacher restaurant, but all the pictures I could find of the sign just had words, and so doubts were raised. Now it all comes together. The mystery is gone and my life has no meaning.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves correct, as a kid when Arthur Treacher's first came out two pieces of fish and thick chips were 69 cents. It may have been only one piece of fish, but I definitely remember it came in a small cardboard tray. Chips on the bottom, fish on top of the chips. And it's kind of hard to believe now what a great new taste sensation it was for fast food joints.