(WWLP) – One of the co-founders of Friendly’s, which started as a small Springfield ice cream shop and grew to a chain of restaurants along the East Coast, has passed away at the age of 102.
Curtis Blake died Friday at his home in Hobe Sound, Florida.
Curtis Blake and his brother, S. Prestley Blake, founded Friendly Ice Cream on Boston Road in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood back in 1935. The company grew with more locations in western Massachusetts and Connecticut in the 1940’s and 50’s, and by the time they sold the company to Hershey Foods in 1979, they had grown to 500 restaurants.
Friendly’s, as the company became known after the sale, continued to grow with new locations along the East Coast and expanding to sell ice cream in supermarkets. More recently, however, the chain has contracted in size, with only 177 locations remaining in 15 states. The restaurant and ice cream manufacturing business have different owners, though the Friendly’s plant on Boston Road in Wilbraham remains in operation.
In a statement sent to 22News, Friendly’s restaurants CEO George Michel said: “The entire Friendly’s family is deeply saddened by the passing of Curtis Blake, and we extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends. Curtis and his brother, S. Prestley ‘Pres’ Blake, inspired the heart and soul of Friendly’s. Their love of ice cream and Friendly’s customers is at the core of everything we do, having cemented a wonderful legacy that will undoubtedly live on.”
In addition to his achievements in business, Curtis Blake served in the Army Air Forces in England during World War II. He was also a noted philanthropist in western Massachusetts and beyond, with his contributions leading to the creation of the Curtis Blake Center at American International College to benefit students with learning disabilities (The Curtis Blake Day School now is operated by the Children’s Study Home). The Blake Building at Mass General Hospital also bears his family’s name.
Curtis Blake is survived by his brother, S. Prestley Blake, who is now 104 years old.