I was driving down Route 35 in Middletown last Sunday, where I passed the Papa John's in Squire's Plaza that was already out of business. It caught my attention that the New England Hot Dog location next to it was now sadly out of business, as well. On their "closed" sign, the ownership mentions gift certificates and how customers can potentially get their money back, which I thought was a nice gesture.
I decided to investigate the New England Hot Dog Company further to see whether it was a chain or not. I found that the other nearby locations, such as Freehold, was already closed. It turns out that the parent company, founded in Massachusetts in 2004, has been out of business since last January. Each franchisee was allowed to use the name and keep their locations running as normal. But does a 'normal' still exist once the franchisor has been kicked to the curb? Who do these franchisees look to when they need advertising, counsel, and supplies? It unfortunately creates a losing scenario for all that are involved.
The closure of these two franchised locations brought to mind the Java's Brewin’ Coffee & Muffin shop that was also in Squire's Plaza, from around 2006-2007. It was located where the nail salon currently is, closest to the Barnabas Health building (Medical Health Center). Once again, I conducted some research about the franchisor and discovered that unhappy franchisees from many states were attempting to sue the parent company for being misled into expectations of unrealistic startup fees and sales figures. In addition, franchisees were left with little to no operational assistance from the franchisor. What an example of innocent entrepreneurs being coerced, brainwashed, and taken advantage of.
There was more than one Javas Brewin' location in our area. Another one on Route 35 in Shrewsbury, closed shortly after the Middletown location. I recall discovering how the business was for sale, where the asking price for the Shrewsbury location dropped from $50k down to $25k very quickly.
The Squire Shopping plaza has luckily had a few constant businesses that have ‘made it’ for many years. Unfortunately, that plaza cannot shake away their reputation as being one that is dangerous to enter and exit. With a storm of vehicles proceeding southbound or even rushing to enter 35 South from Harmony Road, I can see why someone would prefer a safer location to shop. In fact, I remember popping a tire on the curb of the entrance to the former Medical Health Center, in 2008. I was conducting a lunch delivery for my business. When you have people tailgating behind you, and with a very small turn-off shoulder to use, one can only hope to make it to his/her destination in one piece.
Having a takeout food business with a Route 35 location is great, but not when it is near any racetrack-worthy spots. Being the owner of a chain location may seem great, but it may not always end up being what one would expect. Let’s see what type of 'action' and support that Sonic (a modern-day Stewart's) brings to our neighborhood's economic and traffic patterns.