A Friendly restaurant in Concord will close its doors for good on Sunday

  • Friendly’s server Shana Miller and former server Denise Clattenburg talk Thursday about the restaurant closing this Sunday. Clattenburg worked at the North Main Street restaurant for over 20 years and Miller will be moving over to the Loudon Road location. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Samantha Clattenburg and her mother Denise Clattenburg, who both worked at the North Main Street Friendly's Ice Cream for a combination of over 40 years, talk about their experiences waitressing on Thursday, October 17, 2019. The restaurant will be closing this Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Steven Cilley of Concord gets ready to eat his last breakfast at the Friendly's Ice Cream restaurant on Thursday, October 17, 2019 before the North Main Street institution closes this Sunday. Cilley has been going to the store since it opened. He remembers when Friendly's was a garage before it opened. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Samantha Clattenburg and her mother Denise Clattenburg, who both worked at the North Main Street Friendly's Ice Cream for a combination of over 40 years, talk about their experiences waitressing on Thursday, October 17, 2019. The restaurant will be closing this Sunday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Steven Cilley of Concord gets ready to pay for his last breakfast at the Friendly’s on North Main Street. He’s been a regular customer at the location for 50 years.

Monitor staff
Published: 10/18/2019 1:09:37 PM

Between Denise Clattenburg and her daughter, Samantha, they put in 40 years working at the Friendly’s on North Main Street in Concord.

Denise worked exactly 21 years, five months, five days and five hours. Samantha put in nearly 19 years.

It was among the best experiences of their lives, they said. Sure, Friendly’s is just a restaurant, but to them, the staff, and the customers, it was more.

“You had a chance here to affect people’s lives,” Denise Clattenburg said Thursday, sitting down over a cup of coffee and a grilled English muffin with soft rock music playing in the background.

Denise last worked at Friendly’s 17 years ago, but people around town still recognize her. She and Samantha were among the long-timers who made the pilgrimage to the downtown staple this week, to reminisce, to say goodbye.

On Tuesday, a sign out front announced the restaurant would close for good this Sunday, the latest closure for the Northeast chain.

“Most of our regulars are devastated,” said waitress Shana Miller. Friday was her last shift at the restaurant on her 31st birthday.

Miller is a mom. She has four kids and like many of the waitresses there, she liked the hours, she liked the customers and the pay was good, thanks to generous tips and lots of table turnover.

It has been a great place for single moms to make a living. Over the years, the restaurant employed several mother-daughter pairs, including the Clattenburgs.

“I think this place means a lot,” said Miller, who will be moving to the other Friendly’s in town and hopes to see a lot of her regulars move there too.

“The feel of our restaurant is different than any other restaurant in Concord,” Miller said. It’s even different than the second Friendly’s that’s just a few miles away on Loudon Road, Miller said. The downtown Friendly’s has been there longer and pulls from one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. 

The menus might be the same, but the feeling between the two is different, agreed longtime customer Steve Cilley.

“The one on North Main Street, it’s very comfortable,” Cilley said. “It’s a place you can go and put your feet up on the sofa, so to speak.”

The food was always good, the service was even better, and true to its name, the restaurant felt friendly, said Cilley, who came in Thursday for one last bite to eat.

The morning meal is Cilley’s favorite of the day, so he ordered the Lumberjack Breakfast – three eggs, three pieces of French toast, three pieces of bacon. He washed it down with a glass of water.

“It’s quite a hefty meal,” he said.

Cilley, who’s 75 and lived in Concord all his life, said he’s been going to that Friendly’s since it opened nearly 50 years ago.

“I didn’t want to miss closing it out,” he said.

When it comes to the wave of chain store closings, Concord has taken its lumps with the loss of Radio Shack, Bon Ton and Toys ’R Us. But in other ways, its been blissfully unaffected, seemingly protected by its own little bubble in time.

Sears, which has paired down its locations across the country, is keeping its doors open at the Steeplegate Mall. Shaw’s supermarkets, which closed four stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts this year, has not one but two locations in Concord.

It was the same story for Friendly’s, the homey restaurant and ice cream chain. The ovens and freezers were turned off in two dozen Friendly’s locations in the Northeast this year, but here in Concord, people were ordering enough ice cream Sundaes and SuperMelts to support two restaurants.

But finally, Concord’s little bubble will burst.

Cilley said he’ll find another place to go out to eat, but he’d like to see Concord keep some of its character.

“There’s been a shift of a lot of comfortable, older places. We’re losing some of that,” Cilley said. “I just hope we don’t modernize to the point where we lose all that’s historic and good about the city.”

Denise and Samantha Clattenburg said the saddest part will be to drive by after it closes.

Denise Clattenburg said she doesn’t have a lot of money, but thanks to Friendly’s she’s one of the richest people she knows.

“I raised three great kids working here. I bought a house with part-time pay. I got a double PhD in people skills,” she said. “I met and kept friends that have lasted a lifetime.”

(Photo editor Geoff Forester contributed to this report.)




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