Drug Store Spawned Franchise
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Drug Store Spawned Franchise

ASBURY PARK (Sunday, June 11, 2006) - Who was the real Howard Johnson?

Starting with a corner drug store in Wollaston, Mass., in 1925, Howard Dearing Johnson built one of the country's first restaurant chains, which in turn spawned a chain of hotels.

His early success stemmed from improving the quality of the drug store's soda fountain ice cream, using a "secret formula" that called for all natural ingredients and double the normal butterfat content. People loved the taste, and Johnson quickly added more flavors.

Johnson then developed a signature hot dog, using top-quality meat, with both ends clipped off, and fresh, lightly toasted, buttered rolls. Eventually, he opened a restaurant in Quincy, Mass., which was such a success he sold the rights to his first franchise in Orleans on Cape Cod in 1935.

By 1939, there were more than 100 Howard Johnson's restaurants along the East Coast, all of which had to abide by a strict set of rules Johnson himself developed, according to his biography on the Web site of Cendant Corp., which owns the rights to Howard Johnson hotels.

Most of the restaurant franchises disappeared during World War II because of gasoline rationing and other economic factors, but the number surged again after the war when Americans returned to the highways. The 1950s saw the advent of Howard Johnson hotels.

Johnson died in 1972. By the time the company was sold to a British conglomerate in 1979, more than 1,000 restaurants and 500 hotels bore his name.

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