Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Frank's is Closing - Article by Don Ray (BHS '67)

Sad to see it close... thanks for the update, Don...

Tom Hanks' 'Larry Crowne' Restaurant Location to Close its Doors

Don Ray's photo
LA People Examiner

The movie location for Tom Hanks' film "Larry Crowne"
Frank's Restaurant closes its doors after more than 60 years in business. Credit: Don Ray
Jose Lopez at his Frank's Restaurant
Jose Lopez has worked 12-hour days, seven days a week for nearly four years. Credit: Don Ray

When Tom Hanks went looking for the perfect coffee shop to use as a location for his film, "Larry Crowne," he ended up at Frank’s Restaurant in Burbank. It was the perfect California setting for his down-on-his-luck character to flip burgers to make ends meet. It was just the right place for Larry Crowne to bump into and have some flirting time with his college teacher, Mercedes Tainot, played by Julia Roberts.

When the film came out in 2011, tourists from all over the world added Frank’s to their vacation itineraries. The regular customers are accustomed to seeing fans of Hanks and Roberts snapping photos of themselves in the booth where Tom Hanks served Julia Roberts. Some of them want a picture of themselves with owner Jose Lopez — especially when they see his photo with Hanks, and learn that he was the actor’s “hand double” when the actor had to chop onions or slice tomatoes on camera.

But such encounters are likely to come to an end when the Burbank landmark closes its doors on Friday, March 30. It was a combination of the unrelenting slump in the economy, Lopez says, and the rent increase he was facing, that forced him to close the business. The building’s owners have not said what they will do with the empty restaurant.

“I tried everything I could to keep the place open,” Lopez said, “if for no other reason than to keep my wonderful employees from losing their jobs.” He also says he feels a responsibility to the customers, many of whom followed the popular chef when the owners of the last kitchen he ran closed down. For years, he was the head chef at Genio’s Restaurant, also in Burbank, until it closed five years ago.

"Frank's Restaurant is a long time legend in Burbank," long-time customer Judy Beers said. "Everyone knows where Frank's is. We were so happy when Jose took it over. The food is great, the hospitality is fabulous. Everyone is very sad that this legend restaurant has to close. Jose gave it his all. I wish we could have worked it out."

Lopez says he’s negotiating with the owners of a building very close to Frank’s where he plans to open a new restaurant.

“I want to bring all of my employees and customers to the new place,” he said. “Some of my staff have been working at Frank’s for more than 20 years.” More than 300 customers left their contact information with Jose so that they will know when and where he will be able to feed them again.

“I’ve been coming here since 1955,” one of his customers wrote on the card he left with his address. Another wrote, “I’ll follow Jose wherever he goes.”

Frank's is at 916 W. Olive Ave. in Burbank, California.

You can e-mail Don Ray at donray@donray.com


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