End of an era:  Friendly’s closes doors in Madeira

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published July 20, 1994 in The Suburban Life, added July 14, 2015




Sometimes I get the feeling that everything in life is rapidly becoming a part of nostalgia.  What’s here and enjoyed today simply won’t be around to be enjoyed tomorrow.

And so goes Friendly’s in Madeira.  We won’t have it to kick around anymore.

It wasn’t the Gourmet Room or the Precinct, but Friendly’s did have its own ambience.  In Madeira, it was the place where the elite could meet to eat a good breakfast. And did.

After the Madeira Manor left, it was the only handy place for me to meet someone to conduct a bit of business, or just to say hello over a cup of coffee or a Sprite.

It was the place where I would meet my friend, Mark Purdy, for an occasional breakfast.  We felt comfortable at Friendly’s, and it’s the place we headed to when he returned to Cincinnati after living in San Jose for a number of years.  The waitresses never cared how long we lingered.  They’d just keep bringing juice and coffee.

It was the place, in fact, where I first met Mark Purdy, years and years ago, when I interviewed him.  Now, I can hear you saying, “You interviewed him?”

Well, yes, I did.  I actually had the nerve to do it- then.  But that was a long time ago, and I was braver then.  And anyway, he hadn’t yet won the Pulitzer Prize.  It was since then that he won Pulitzer.

I also have many other memories of Friendly’s.  It was the place where I could meet a longtime and sometimes friend, Pat Culley, for a quick visit to catch up on our lives while devouring ice cream sodas.

When I worked at Madeira Schools, it was a handy place to go with co-workers for a bit of breakfast and to hash out upcoming work projects.  Many a letter, article, or public relations piece has been born there, with a blueberry muffin on the side.  Friendly’s blueberry muffins were treats to the palate, and I consumed many of them over the years.

It was a place where I felt comfortable to go just by myself.  I could whip out my notebook in a quiet booth and do a bit of work undisturbed while getting a bite to eat.

It was a place where I could keep up with some of the kids I knew from the high school, for many of them worked there.

I remember Julie Greenberg especially.  Julie wrote beautiful poetry and was a special student.  She worked at Friendly’s for a long time.  Even after she went away to college she came back and worked there in the summers.

I’ll miss seeing people like Julie Greenberg.

And I’ll miss just seeing people at Friendly’s.  Anytime I went there I’d run into people I knew.  Friendly’s was a place that lived up to its name.  It was indeed a friendly place.

Both my kids will be most unhappy to hear that Friendly’s bit the dust.  Both are still upset over the disappearance of United Dairy Farmers.  Neither of them could believe me when I told them.

Each of them, on separate trips home, had to go stare at the empty building before believing he could no longer get a supersized chocolate malt there.  Now, they won’t have Friendly’s either.  Tough luck, kids.

And that’s another thing.  Why can’t we keep a restaurant in Madeira?  The Madeira Manor folded.  The Cactus Pear left.  The United Dairy Farmers quietly disappeared.  And now, Friendly’s has faded into the realm of nostalgia.

I’m told that a bank is going up in its place.  I don’t know that, but I’m told.  Just what we need – another bank.  Banks and filling stations.  These are a few of my favorite things.

During his recent “Walkabout Cincinnati” tour, Mark Purdy walked through Madeira, and the next day he wrote in his Enquirer column, “Madeira has abdicated its downtown to a large parking lot for a shopping center.”

He also wrote, “the downtown business district has no real focus, unless you count the Friendly’s Ice Cream restaurant, which could be the unofficial indoor town square.”

Well, Mark, I’m sorry to tell you the focus is gone, and we no longer have an unofficial indoor town square.

And we now have no place to go to breakfast.  Unless you want to try the chili parlor.

I wonder if they have blueberry muffins.