COLUMBUS, OHIO — Wendy's International Inc. is closing the restaurant where the nation's third-largest hamburger chain began in 1969.
The iconic restaurant, filled with memorabilia and photographs of the late Wendy's founder, Dave Thomas, will close Friday, company spokesman Denny Lynch said. "This is a very difficult decision, but the truth is we kept it open for sentimental reasons much longer than we should have."
Thomas, who died in 2002 of liver cancer, opened his first Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant Nov. 15, 1969. He named it after his 8-year-old daughter Melinda Lou, who was nicknamed Wendy. Thomas later became a nationally known figure as a Wendy's pitchman in television commercials.
But the original restaurant, on East Broad Street just a few blocks from the Ohio Statehouse, has its sales restricted because its hours of operation closely follow those of government buildings, Lynch said.
The restaurant has no drive-through window, has limited parking and soon would have required substantial building improvements, Lynch said. No sales figures were released.
Thomas knew before he died that his first restaurant was struggling, Lynch said.
"I guarantee he would support this decision," Lynch said. "He recognized that a company needs to be profitable."
Employees of the restaurant will be offered jobs at other locations, Lynch said. The company hasn't decided whether it will hold a closing ceremony.
Memorabilia, including the dress worn by Thomas' daughter when she posed for the restaurant's logo, will be moved to the corporate offices in Dublin, Ohio.
Wendy's operates about 6,600 restaurants in the United States and abroad.
Wendy's International shares rose 3 cents Friday to $33.29.