THERE WAS a time when everybody went to Gino's, a time when a giant burger slathered in secret sauce left char-grilled imprints on the brains of a generation.
Gino's burgers were there by the bagful after Little League games, before David Bowie concerts, despite warnings from doctors to "cut back on the burgers." Then Gino's went away, slowly, like an aging hairline, and eventually, you could go there only in your mind.
"I don't know what it is. It's just something about Gino's," said John Flack Jr., of Marlton.
Flack has a website (ginoshamburgers.homestead.com) dedicated solely to Gino's, a "fondly remembered former East Coast regional fast-food chain." There are Facebook pages, too, both for fans and former employees, some of whom have taken a nostalgic route to Gino's, long after the last shop closed in Maryland in 1991.
You can't do much about balding, but yes, you can go back to Gino's. You can probably even meet Gino Marchetti, the NFL Hall of Famer who who helped launch the chain with fellow Baltimore Colt Alan Ameche and longtime friend Louis C. Fischer in Maryland in 1957.
"I'm here five days a week helping out with the cooking," said Marchetti, 85, from the Gino's on DeKalb Pike in King of Prussia, which was the first new Gino's to open, in fall 2010. "I like to work in the kitchen."
In August 2011, the former Baltimore Colt made a triumphant return to Maryland by opening a Gino's in Towson, his bacon-covered fries and milkshakes salve for those still wounded by the loss of their iconic team and beloved burger joints. The third Gino's opened in Bensalem a month later. Upper management says there soon could be dozens of Gino's franchises everywhere, including downtown Philadelphia.
"America has an undying love for the burger, and we were one of the first around," said Tom Romano, president and chief executive.
Romano spent nearly 20 years working for Gino's. He was there when Col. Sanders - yes, the real one - brokered a deal to sell his poultry at Gino's. Rustler, a steakhouse in which you could wear sweatpants, was also under the Gino's umbrella. At its height, there were more than 500 Gino's, based mostly in the Northeast and later headquartered in King of Prussia.
In 1982, Marriott bought Gino's for $48 million. The giant corporation was more interested in the real estate to usher in another chain, Roy Rogers.
Romano didn't stick around, saying that he couldn't be a part of the "destruction."
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