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S. Prestley Blake (1914–2021), co-founder of Friendly’s restaurant chain

by Linnea Crowther

S. Prestley Blake co-founded the Friendly’s chain of restaurants along with his brother, Curtis Blake.

Building Friendly’s

Blake and his brother opened the first Friendly’s in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1935, selling 5-cent ice cream cones. Blake wrote in his 2011 autobiography, “A Friendly Life,” that they were able to open the shop with a gift of $547 from their parents. They soon added hamburgers to their menu, and they later added a second location. Both locations were temporarily closed during World War II as the brothers joined the war effort, but when they returned, they not only reopened the restaurants – they also began expanding and adding new Friendly’s locations. At its largest, Friendly’s was a chain of 850 stores spanning the eastern U.S.

The brothers sold Friendly’s to Hershey Foods in 1979, but he emerged from retirement years later after being dismayed by what he saw as mismanagement of the chain he created. He worked for several years – and spent millions – to secure new ownership for Friendly’s. Blake was also a philanthropist who supported causes including the Western New England University School of Law, which is named for him, as well as Springfield College, Johnson Memorial Hospital, and the Somers Education Foundation.


Blake’s advice for young people

“My advice to anyone now is, ‘If you can’t pay for it now, don’t buy it.’” —from a 2011 interview with the Book Connection

Tributes to S. Prestley Blake

Full obituary: Journal Inquirer

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