Bob's Big Boy gets the ax

GLENDALE — Bob’s Big Boy is gone.

The city where the national chain began has lost its lone location after owners of the franchise could not come to terms on a new long-term contract with the corporation.

The Glendale restaurant, at 1407 W. Glenoaks Blvd., is being remodeled and will become an independent American-style diner called Glenoaks Cafe, said Valod Avanessian, one of the store’s owners. The restaurant closed its doors March 17, and the new restaurant is expected to open by the end of May.

The contract between the Michigan-based owners and the Glendale franchise expired years ago, said Jennifer Bourgoian, vice president and general counsel for the company.

The corporation allowed the Glenoaks restaurant to continue operating under a series of one-year contracts, and sometimes out of contract, for at least two years, but executives realized they were not able to hold the franchise owners to the same standards and requirements as other locations because of the unusually short lease, Bourgoian said.

Bob’s Big Boy representatives had visited the Glenoaks location and determined that the operations were “substandard,” she said.

“Any time one of our restaurants closes, it’s disappointing, obviously,” she said. “And we are sensitive to the fact that this was the [city where the first store was located], but when we come across a situation like this, we really don’t have any options.”

Executives made multiple requests for a new 20-year contract, but the franchise owners refused, she said.

Avanessian and his partners were ready to sign a new one-year contract, he said, but they declined offers for a long-term agreement because they wanted the flexibility to shutter the store if it began underperforming during the recession.

The restaurant’s trademark statue, of a chubby boy in checkered overalls with a swirling, 1950s-style hairdo, has already been removed, and visitors hoping to grab an all-American cheeseburger and “silver goblet” chocolate shake were stunned Thursday to learn of the change.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Judee Kendall, the executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, adding that the loss of Glendale’s only Bob’s Big Boy would mean that its loyal following would turn to other locations. “That’s too bad.”

Bob’s Big Boy began when Bob Wian opened the first restaurant in Glendale in 1937, initially called Bob’s Pantry.

The original restaurant, on Colorado Street, became hugely popular as a hangout for Glendale residents, who would often cruise the parking lot and drive-through line to enjoy the crowded scene, said Charles Chatham, a former Glendale resident who visited the Glenoaks location Thursday, hoping for a chocolate shake.

“The thing in high school was Bob’s,” said Chatham, 62, who graduated from Glendale High School in 1964 but now lives in Burbank. “It literally would take you an hour just to cruise through once because the line was so long.”

The restaurant change would leave a void for fans of Bob’s Big Boy, said Shadow Hills resident Steven Pike, 49, whose father worked as a Bob’s Big Boy manager in Glendale.

Pike had been eating at Bob’s Big Boy his whole life, and had planned to meet Chatham for lunch on the way to an afternoon appointment.

“It’s a landmark thing that’s going away,” he said. “That’s kind of sad.”

Bob’s Big Boy has no plans to add a new location in Glendale, although the company would consider inquiries from parties interested in opening local franchises, Bourgoian said.

With the Glendale location gone, the closest and oldest Bob’s Big Boy is in Burbank, she said.

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