Friendly’s closes in South Hadley

  • The sign in front of South Hadley Plaza at the corner of Newton and Lyman streets in South Hadley, shown in 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • This 2016 file photo shows Friendly’s, flanked by the long-closed former Movie Gallery spot, left, and Rocky’s Ace Hardware. Friendly’s closed its restaurant in the plaza in late February, ending its lease a year early. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/11/2018 6:33:15 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — A Friendly’s location in the South Hadley Plaza closed last month after the company opted to end its lease early, leaving developers looking for new retailers to take over the space in the evolving plaza.

Rocco J. Falcone II, co-owner of the plaza and CEO of Rocky’s Ace Hardware located nearby, said the decision by Friendly’s took him by surprise, and they do not yet have plans for what will follow.

“It was a surprise to us that they wanted to terminate the lease,” said Falcone. “As Springfield business folks, we’re not happy to see they’re not making it.”

Falcone purchased the plaza in 2016 for $2.4 million with business partners Peter Picknelly of Peter Pan Bus Lines and restaurant owner Andy Yee. The former Woodlawn Plaza, now dubbed the South Hadley Plaza, is located near the intersection of Newton and Lyman streets.

“It’s a corporate decision and we’re sorry to see it leave,” South Hadley Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said. “I’m sure it didn’t have a great deal to do with South Hadley.”

The restaurant, located at 489 Newton St., officially closed Sunday, Feb. 25. Months earlier, Friendly’s announced its intent to terminate the lease with about one year left.

“The restaurant will cease operations, effective immediately,” read a Feb. 27 statement from Friendly’s media representative company, Regan Communications Group. “Friendly’s in South Hadley values its guests and thanks them for their patronage.”

“I gather they’ve closed a couple of stores,” Falcone said. “I know Friendly’s, they’ve had their problems and they’re in and out of bankruptcy.”

Meantime, South Hadley Plaza is being redeveloped to include a 5,000-foot expansion to the existing Rocky’s Ace Hardware. The plaza also includes a Dunkin’ Donuts and the Chinese food restaurant Mandarin Gourmet.

A nearby Bank of America, located at 477 Newton St., will also close March 27. Falcone said he has thought about purchasing the nearby property.

“It’s contiguous to our property and we’ve looked at it, we could talk to them about it but at this point there is no specific plan,” Falcone said.

After the Big Y located at the plaza closed in 2013, the previous owners tried to get another grocery store to move in. When none showed interest after Falcone, Yee, and Picknelly took over, they tore the building down last year.

“As much as the town wants a grocery store, we’re having a difficult time finding a grocery store that wants to locate into the town,” Falcone said. “The previous owners tried to get a grocery store in and that wasn’t successful, that’s why we took the building down.”

The team says they’re committed to developing the space into an asset for the greater community. Falcone said they’ve even looked into applying for zoning law changes to allow housing to go up in the area.

“There’s too many moving pieces to define what it will look like in five years, but we’re exploring avenues,” Falcone said. “I think South Hadley is a good community. We like the community and we believe in the community.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com


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