LENOX -- As the days, then the weeks, and finally the months went by, Ann Larkin of Richmond found it nearly impossible to live without Burger King's Junior Whopper with cheese.
The cravings became so intense after the Burger King in Lenox abruptly closed last June that Larkin said she began to "fantasize" about her favorite fast-food burger.
To ease the pangs, Larkin said she considered heading to some other fast food restaurant. But she just couldn't take the plunge.
"I just skipped it," she said.
The 83-year-old Larkin won't have to forgo her favorite Burger King meal any longer.
Nine months after three Pittsfield-area Burger Kings closed and five months after they were sold at foreclosure auction, the Lenox restaurant on Thursday became the first of that trio to officially re-open for business.
"We almost postponed it," said the restaurant's new franchise operator, Stan Paulauskas of Worthington. "We were going to do it Tuesday, but we wanted to make sure that everything was right."
After Burger King personnel inspected the newly renovated eatery on Wednesday night, Paulauskas decided to open the doors at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Two hours later, the restaurant was experiencing a steady stream of customers.
With no advance notice, Paulauskas was surprised that so many had arrived so soon.
"It's not bad," he said.
Larkin, her granddaughter and a friend were driving on Route 7 when they saw cars in BK's parking lot.
They weren't the only ones.
"We did the same thing," said Tabitha Barnum of Pittsfield as she dined with friends.
A veteran Burger King franchise owner who has been with the chain since 1981, Paulauskas is also the operator of the Burger King on First Street in Pittsfield. Both restaurants were purchased by Lenox entrepreneur Jason Berger at foreclosure auction in November. Burger King Corp. closed the three Pittsfield-area restaurants last summer after former owner Richard George of Pittsfield defaulted on his franchise agreement.
The third Burger King that George owned, located on Merrill Road in Pittsfield, was purchased by J. Leo Barry, who is part of the group that owns the adjacent Stop & Shop shopping plaza. The plans for that restaurant are unknown. Barry has not returned several telephone calls seeking comment.
On Thursday, Paulauskas said he's hoping to open the First Street Burger King on April 11. The Lenox Burger King opened first because it had been remodeled after a fire a few years ago. The First Street Burger King is currently undergoing extensive internal renovations that are designed to bring the restaurant up to the chain's current standards.
"It will be the first Burger King in Western Massachusetts to have the new image," Paulauskas said.
The Lenox Burger King has 25 employees, Paulauskas said. He plans to hire 35 to run the First Street restaurant. Twelve employees have already been hired, and Paulauskas said they will all be trained at the Lenox Burger King.
Paulauskas spent around $100,000 renovating the Lenox Burger King. That restaurant also has wi-fi capability and a plasma television set. It has a digital menu board that can show animated videos of Burger King products, a new broiler, and security system. A permanent sign outside the restaurant should be in place by next week.
"It looks a lot better," said Vincent Hottel of Pittsfield. "Before, it looked like an old 80-year-old house."
Larkin was happy she could finally nosh on her favorite sandwich.
"We couldn't wait," she said. "We're so thrilled."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
or (413) 496-6224.