Monday, January 03, 2011

Another business 'dogged' by bad state policies

Most residents of the North Shore are familiar with Lawton's Famous Frankfurters in Lawrence. Situated prominently on the corner of Broadway and Canal Streets, it has been a local landmark since first opening its doors in 1929.

We've eaten there. Heck, our grandparents even ate there many moons ago.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. In this case, Lawton's officially closed its doors on December 31, 2010 after 81 years of serving up lunchtime Hot Dog Specials.

The owners are talking of finding a new location sometime in the future, but for now at least, the business is gone.

Before you think this is just another blog posting about some defunct food stand or nostalgic times gone by, think again. There’s a story behind the story, and that's why it's the topic of our posting today.

If you ask the store owners why they closed, they will tell you it had to do with the ill effects of a state economic stimulus project, and regulatory opposition to opening a new location.

On a sign hanging in the store during its final days, store owners claimed they decided not to renew their lease at their current location because state bridge work on nearby Route 28 "hurt them badly."

Here is what the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune had to say about it:

The bridge project is part of the state's Accelerated Bridge Program. In 2009, the Patrick-Murray Administration heralded bridge reconstruction in the area as "part of its Massachusetts Recovery Plan to secure the state's economic future."

Ask anyone who used to eat or work at Lawton's what they think about that "economic recovery" plan today, and they'll likely give you 'the works.'

The story doesn't end there. Faced without viable business at their existing location, store owners then attempted to move to an abandoned car dealership property across town, which was going to be redeveloped. However, the local planning board blocked those plans due to neighborhood opposition. That property remains vacant to this day, the shell of another defunct business.

And so, like countless other Massachusetts businesses, Lawton's is now part of the economic history of our state, instead of a vital part of our economic future. And, it's the latest business in Lawrence to close its doors and to add to the unemployment woes of one of the most economically-depressed communities in the state. Basically, one of the first things you see when you drive into downtown Lawrence on Route 28 is an empty store that had been in business for generations.

Lawton's serves as an important case study for anyone who doubts the importance of state policies for business development and job growth here in the Bay State.

Will state officials get the message?

'Frankly,' we don't think so.


  1. Good thing you linked to the press release because Kirk doesn't say how long Lawton's has been under seige from the bridge repairs.

    What you don't say is: Why was the state wrong to fix the bridge, and what should have been done?

    The state is fixing a crumbling bridge. It would be slammed for ignoring the problem. Indeed, lack of traffic seems to no longer be the issue. Lawtons owners tell the Tribune there's an even bigger problem -- a crumbling canal wall -- forcing them to move.

    It sounds like the real villain is the city not the state for not smoothing the way for a relocation to the open spot or a suitable spot.

  2. Good point, and thanks for your post. We agree that the city is also to blame.

  3. Wonder how many jobs were lost due to this closing? Here's a solution...find them an underused carnival type food stand we all see that set up shop for a week at various events. Permit it, get it located close by in a vacant lot or city owned lot for a few months, and get these folks back in business ASAP. Come on Deval and Lawrence pol's....get on the stick. Here's another idea...invite Obama for a hot dog...he loves them and bet they'd be back in business in no time.


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