Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters may close by Dec. 31st

Regular readers of this blog may remember the post I made back in June of 2009. I posted about a long-time roadside business in the mill town of Lawrence, Mass., Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters. The place is situated along a sidewalk at the corner of Canal St. and Broadway virtually on top of a wall to the North Canal. At that time in 2009, it was in danger of sliding into the canal due to some nearby utillity work causing a structural problem, see the post …….

Anyway, after about six months or so, the stand was allowed to reopen, unfortunately, business has been affected by an on going project. Namely, the replacing of the Falls Bridge over the Merrimack River. Traffic has been detoured as one side of the bridge gets rebuilt at a time. Now  the stands owners are deciding that business is so bad that they are not going to renew their lease.

Here is the story from the November 27th Lawrence Eagle-Tribune written by Bill Kirk that gives all the info….

Lawton’s could be gone for good Dec. 31

By Bill Kirk

LAWRENCE — After 81 years serving up unique recipes of deep-fried hotdogs and chicken barbecue, it appears that Lawton’s is shutting its side door and turning off the fryolators for good.

Owners Scott and Joanne Curley announced to customers and employees this week that as of Dec. 31, the historically skinny, gastronomic landmark will no longer exist — at least at its current location at the corner of Canal and South Broadway near the Falls Bridge.

“This was a very hard decision but we have considered all factors,” the Curleys said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune. She said a combination of forces drove them to make the call not to renew their lease with property owner Mike Graffeo of New Hampshire.

Since work began on the Falls Bridge, with lane closures and traffic tie-ups, business has slowed by nearly 45 percent, Curley said. “Route 28 bridge work has been detrimental to our business,” she said. “The traffic in the area deters all customers from even attempting to come to this area of town.”

Work is continuing on the bridge, although it is now open in both directions as work on one side of the bridge appears to have been finished. “The Falls Bridge work is killing me,” she said in an interview Wednesday. Further, she said, the Enel Co., which owns the Great Stone Dam and the canals that once fed power to the riverside mills in the city, is planning on doing a major reconstruction project on the canal wall adjacent to Lawton’s.

“The canal wall is not stable,” she said, noting that it was destabilized last year after AT&T did some utility work in the area, which caused erosion of the ground under Lawton’s, forcing the hotdog stand to close for six months until the embankment could be shored up. While that work was completed, the wall itself remains a problem.

“They had engineering companies looking at the job to fix the wall or reinforce it,” she said. “If they take up all that parking space, my customers won’t come in. I’ll be open, but I’ll have no customers.” Enel spokesman Hank Sennott said the company hopes to start work on the canal wall before the end of this year, but the scope of the work hasn’t been finalized yet.

“I’m not sure of the details,” he said. “We haven’t decided what we’re going to do, so making a decision to close may be a bit premature.” Sennott said the company’s engineer Jon Dollard spoke with Joanne Curley last week and told her that the bulk of the work would be done in the canal itself, although occasionally workers may have to take a parking space.

The last straw, Curley said, was when a proposed assisted livingdevelop-ment at the old Nassar Ford site was shot down last month by the city’s planning board in the face of neighborhood opposition. Part of that plan was to create a mini-retail strip mall that would have included a new Lawton’s.

When the plan was nixed, the new location for Lawton’s was lost in the shuffle, she said. “We were going to move to Nassar Ford, but the whole project got shot down,” she said. “We had a verbal OK to move there.” Curley said she and her husband are still looking for an alternate location, keeping in mind customers’ suggestions.

“We will be searching for a perfect location for this 81-year-old business to move to,” she said, noting that feedback has included “more parking, closer to highway, and even a few tables where they can eat their food. We will consider all offers that come our way. Although we are very saddened by this decision we look forward to a grand re-opening in the near future.”

Her customers would be grateful. During the Wednesday lunch rush, a steady crowd of hotdog and barbecue lovers crowded the narrow hallway leading to the counter, where a fire hydrant still stands. “I’ll be very sad,” said Jack Doyle, 74, of Methuen. “It’s convenient, it’s a legend. I used to come here as a kid when I worked at the Broadway movie theater.” He said he and his co-workers would come down for lunch or dinner. “There’s nothing like this,” he said.

Al Lafreniere, 60, of Derry, N.H., agreed. “I come here any chance I get,” he said. “It will be sadly missed.” Some customers said they’d follow the hotdog stand wherever it moves, if, in fact it reopens elsewhere. “I’d still go,” said David Silverwatch, 62, of Methuen, formerly of Lawrence. “I come here every other week, or at least once a week,” he said. “Their hotdogs are unique. You get a different taste.” Plus, he said, it’s cheap.

Lawrence firefighter Eric Zahn, 41, picking up lunch for his comrades waiting in a firetruck outside, said he’d been coming to the stand his whole life, and had passed down the passion for Lawton’s cuisine to his daughter, now 14. “She’ll be upset,” he said. “She loves it. It’s the best. We’re going to be lost without it.”

Graffeo, who owns the property that Lawton’s sits on, said that he is hopeful that something will reopen on the site. “I’d like to see them stay there,” he said. “But I can’t stop people from leaving. If they leave, new opportunities could arise. It’s a very busy corner. If they leave, there’s no shortage of people who’d give that place a go, because of the location.”

Looks like I will be trying to get up to Lawrence this Saturday for a couple of Frankfurters before they close at this location. Hopefully they will reopen in a new location in the near future! Thanks to Bob Higgins who clued me in about this in an email today!