Looks like possible problems for Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters in Lawrence

I have been keeping tabs on the progress of the future reopening of Lawton’s Famous Frankfurters at a new location in South Lawrence, Mass. The securing of this new location is in the works according to business owner Joanne Curley. They are hoping to start construction on a new building located on a vacant lot at the corner of South Union and Jamaica Streets in the very near future. Regular readers of this blog may recall I have posted a couple of times (back in December & January) about the closing of the business at its longtime location by the South Canal in Lawrence, see……  https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/lawtons-famous-frankfurters-may-close-by-dec-31st/ and….. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/lawtons-famous-frankfurters-1929-2010/

Joanne Curley behind the counter at the original location of Lawton’s

I recieved a message thru Facebook the other day from Joanne, and she is very upset (rightfully so) about some recent developments that have popped up. In the message from Joanne, she wanted to let people know that something was happening at Lawton’s old location. It seems the owner of the property has advertised the fact that a new business is opening that would infringe on Lawton’s menu and reputation. Here is what she wrote…

WARNING: sign at old Lawton’s location “LAWRENCE FAMOUS FRANKFURTS coming soon” & they still are using Lawton’s old telephone number too!!!!  Don’t be fooled folks, It Is NOT Lawton’s…it’s just a ploy to get you there~~ OMG…see how low some people are…Unbelievable!
Please pass this info on…Thank You…I will keep you posted with all Lawton’s info

In a further message she stated…
LAWTON’S needs your support: City of Lawrence licensing board meeting on Wed. 4/13 @ 7pm. Please try to attend~ The more people in attendance the better! Help us stop them~~old location owner is capitalizing on Lawton’s history by using a similar NAME, 1929 date is used in his new sign (the building was not built in 1929, just a ploy). He even has a similar Hot Dog pan out in front! HE also advertized my menu on Craigslist trying to Sell the building. Please pass this on..Thanks
Seems like a pretty low blow to me. I told Joanne I would help out by posting this on Diner Hotline. I am definitely in her corner and I hope the licensing board sees that this is wrong and should not be allowed to go forward!

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 (http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x413852113/Lawtons-closes-its-doors) …..

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…. http://www.lawtonsfamousfrankfurters.com/

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 ……. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/lawtons-hot-dog-stand-in-lawrence-mass-in-jeopardy/

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!