The legacy brands were retracting for years.

Over the past month, the last remaining Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and Don Pablo’s Mexican restaurants closed their doors. The surprising closures mark the end of an era for two legacy chains, which opened in 1963 and 1985, respectively. 

Don Pablo’s has struggled in recent years with the increase of competition from fast-casual Mexican concepts, like Chipotle, Moe’s, and Qdoba, and more offerings at other casual dining eateries. This led the company to file for bankruptcy in 2017.  

At its highest point in the 1990s, Don Pablo’s footprint stretched across 120 locations. As the chain changed owners over the next 20 years, it slowly retracted. When Food Management Partners (FMP) took control in 2014, there were 34 units.

On June 23, FMP closed the last store in Deptford, New Jersey. 

“We have been told little to nothing about the situation,” Elizabeth Jarvis, a waitress who wasn’t working when the restaurant was shuttered, told “In March or April, corporate said Don Pablo’s was not going anywhere any time soon.”

FMP has yet to comment on the closure.

Bob Farrell founded Farrell’s in Portland, Oregon, in 1963. After the brand was acquired by Marriott Corporation in 1971, there were 130 restaurants nationwide. Farrell’s was sold in 1988 to an investment group in San Francisco and, by 1990, most locations had closed. The last store held on until 2006. 

Farrell’s got a second chance in 2009 when the brand had a small revival thanks to Lake Forest-based Parlour Enterprises Inc., which bought the rights to the brand. With kitschy decor and creative ice cream concoctions, the company was able to open seven locations across Southern California. 

The company struggled to gain traction even after entrepreneur and host of CNBC’S reality business show “The Profit,” Marcus Lemonis, stepped in to buy the brand in 2016. 

Stores continued to shutter over the past three years. The last remaining restaurant, in Brea, California, closed June 8. 

After the Buena Park store shut down in January, Lemonis said he would rework the brand when he thought it was the right time, The Mercury News reported.

“I’ll hold onto it until I find another opportunity, even a smaller concept like a quick serve, and trademark it,” Lemonis said. “I’ll put it on the shelf and wait for the right window.”

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Feature, Finance