HoJo Mojo

The last Howard Johnson's west of the Mississippi closes, leaving its patrons with no place to dine

Williams believes the Van Staverns never gave the restaurant a chance.

"It's true," says Williams, "folks didn't patronize the place enough -- I'm one of them. But I do think that if the new owners had really wanted to, they could have made it succeed. That restaurant is not even listed in the White Pages. It's in the Yellow Pages under 'Restaurants,' buried among thousands of other entries. And why are there no billboards on I-44? There are thousands of hungry truckers and families driving past that interchange every day, and they don't know about that restaurant. These people didn't care to see that restaurant succeed. They didn't give a damn."

Williams is trying to salvage the landmark.

HoJo enthusiast Barry Williams: "It's unreal how fast something so mighty could just vanish."
Jennifer Silverberg
HoJo enthusiast Barry Williams: "It's unreal how fast something so mighty could just vanish."

"I'm presently in discussions with Kirkwood city planners and local developers about the idea of relocating the building, intact, to a new site in Kirkwood and continuing it as a Howard Johnson's," he says. "It's a long shot, I know, but worth pursuing."

Meanwhile, Asher, owner of Asher Tire on South Lindbergh across from HoJo, is busy taking the turbocharger off his tow truck. Asher was a regular at the Kirkwood HoJo -- had breakfast there every day for seven or eight years. This particular morning was his last meal there, and he was the last customer.

"They closed it up this morning," he says, torquing a stubborn bolt. "There were a lot of people trying to get in, but they couldn't because they locked the doors at 11 o'clock sharp. I'm sorry to see it happen. I liked their coffee. You know, you get used to one thing, you don't like to change." He triumphs over the bolt, pops his head up out of the engine. "Yeah, plenty of good memories of that place. I made a lot of friends there, conducted business there. Well, they say all good things come to an end -- that's the end of that, I guess."

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