Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters, 1929-2010

Well, as I mentioned in the post from a couple of weeks ago, Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters of Lawrence, Mass. was slated to close at its long-time business location (since 1929) on December 31st. Due to an ongoing reconstruction project on the adjacent Falls Bridge and other mitigating circumstances, owners Joanne & Scott Curley decided not to renew their lease on the building and property.

I also mentioned in the previous post that I would take the short ride up to Lawrence and grab a couple of chili dogs and take some new photos of the place.

Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters, Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior view of Lawton’s. Note the Fire Hydrant, a unique part of the ambiance of this place. Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior view of Lawton’s with Denise Cultrera by the door. Note the Fire Hydrant, a unique part of the ambiance of this place. Dec. 18, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Joanne Curley at your service behind the counter at Lawton’s
Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

The infamous grill where they fry the frankfurters at Lawton’s
Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Left-end exterior view of Lawton’s, Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

View from directly across the street, Dec. 18, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

So after I had my 2 chili dogs I snapped the above photos and was on my way home heading down South Broadway when I realized I forgot to take a very important photo, the one showing the old advertising sign for “Essem” Frankfurts! Well, I was not turning around to correct my mistake so in the back of my mind I was already planning to return on the last day.

So this past Friday, Dec. 31st we returned just after the 11:00 am opening and the place already had a line inside ordering up food!

Customers waiting on the last day of business. Dec. 31, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

And I got my photo of the Essem Frankfurt sign…..

Essem Frankfurt sign at Lawton’s. Dec. 31, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

One of the reasons I wanted to get this photo is that there does not seem to be any “Essem” logos or imagery on line! The brand still exists but has gone thru some different ownerships in the last 10 years. The original Essem Frankfurts were made in Lawrence, but the brand ended up getting sold to Tyson Foods who started making them elsewhere and they became hard to get locally. I know that Lawton’s started using locally made Kayem Brand Hot Dogs. Ironically, a couple of years ago Tyson Foods sold most of their Hot Dog brands to Kayem.

Anyway, I used the above photo as a template and recreated the sign in Adobe Illustrator, check out the finished product below…..

My version of the Essem Sign.

An article about the closing of Lawton’s appeared on Sunday in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune ( …..

Lawton’s Closes its doors

By Alex Bloom


LAWRENCE — As 2010 came to a close, Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters shut its doors after 81 years.

The famed hot dog shop at the corner of Canal and South Broadway near the Falls Bridge yesterday served its last deep-fried hot dogs and chicken barbecue — at least for the forseeable future.

“I’m going to reopen,” said Joanne Curley, who owns the Lawrence shop with husband Scott. “I’m going to find something.”

Patrons flooded the shop over the last few days to get their last Lawton’s hot dogs. Curley said she sold three days worth of food on Thursday.

“I’m going to cry when I leave here today,” Curley said.

The Curleys chose not to renew their lease as work on Falls Bridge has cut into their sales. Additionally, 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.

Late yesterday afternoon, customers lined up outside the shop to get their hot dogs. Patrons were still arriving after the shop closed at 4 p.m.

Brian Donahue and his wife Jennifer, Georgetown residents, went with a group of people to celebrate Brian’s 58th birthday. A Lawton’s hot dog is a yearly tradition, Brian Donahue said.

“I’m an expert in hot dogs. I’ve had hot dogs from around the world,” Brian Donahue said. “This is still the best place.”

The party arrived after the shop had closed, but Curley cooked up a hot dog just for Brian. He said the hot dogs “melt in your mouth.”

“The buns are perfect, the onions are perfect — they’re just really very good,” Donahue said.

Jennifer Donahue said that she and Brian met their future son-in-law at Lawton’s.

“We chose here,” Jennifer Donahue said.

“We had to see what kind of guy he was.”

“He ordered a hamburger, so we were really concerned,” Brian Donahue added.

Russ Croteau, 52, of Derry, New Hampshire went to grab a few hot dogs for himself and his wife.

He was waiting in line when he ran into Kim Blanchette, 52, who graduated from Lawrence High School in the same class with Croteau. The two hadn’t seen each other in 10 years and were both present to grab some final hot dogs.

“I was coming for three hot dogs and I got 16,” Croteau said. “I’m going to put some in the freezer.”

Croteau used to go fishing with friends behind the shop. He said his parents — now in their 70s — had one of their first dates at Lawton’s.

“It’s like part of Lawrence is going away,” Croteau said.

Although he’s been traveling abroad, Blanchette stops at Lawton’s every time he’s in Lawrence to get a hot dog with the works.

“They’ve just got so much flavor, even though I know it’s not good for you,” Blanchette said. “It’s the flavor.”

Beth Lucht of Lowell went with her sister to get their last Lawton’s. Lucht said she always gets the hot-dog-and-french-fry special.

The two took pictures and planned on taking photos of their meals to go post on Facebook. Lucht said she thinks its funny when people ask her if she’s tried the chicken barbecue or other food.

“And I go, ‘I don’t know, I never eat anything but a hot dog there,” Lucht said.

Rene Lavallee, 50 and a Lawrence firefighter, said he’s been coming to Lawton’s all his life.

A lifelong Lawrence resident, he was on hand yesterday with his two daughters and his nephew with the hopes of getting the very last Lawton’s hot dogs.

“They’re going to get their first and last ones,” Lavallee said.

You can keep tabs on when and where the Curley’s might reopen at a new location by checking out their website at….

8 thoughts on “Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters, 1929-2010

  1. My stepmother is Valorie Snigorski, the daughter of John Snigorski, one of the founders of Essem. I have a great deal of memorabilia on Essem, if you would like to take a look.

    • Judy
      My name is Denise Bowdidge, I lived across from your step mother for years.
      However, since her move to RI, lost touch, sadly, we get older and lose touch with
      each other…
      Please understand, My children, grandchildren also, enjoy ESSEM hot dogs very much, we always have them, proud of the history, and the legacy.

  2. Lived in Lawrence early 50’s. We used to fish under the dam in the pools.
    Lawton’s was a stop….when we had the money…before we went home. Loved them. I was back there in 2009 and had to stop there but was disappointed that they were closed. Essem’s were always my favorite hot dog.
    I’m now in northern Utah where they never heard of Essem hot dogs.

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