TUPELO – After 45 years, Bonanza restaurant in Tupelo is winding down business.
Owner John Mason confirmed that the building is under contract to be sold to Dollar General Corp., which has filed plans to build a store on the property on 550 N. Gloster St.
“It’s not a done deal, but it’s all but finished,” said Mason, who opened the restaurant in 1973. “We’ve been working on it since about January, and they’ll have to tear the building down.”
Plans have been filed with the city’s planning department by Dollar General, which estimates construction cost of around $900,000.
Mason owned as many as a dozen Bonanza locations at one time, and had closed all but this one.
The brand has gone through ownership changes and even a bankruptcy through the years, and the 10 remaining Bonanza Steakhouses are scattered across the country with another five in Puerto Rico. The Tupelo location is the only one south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The company at its peak had some 600 locations nationwide.
Said Mason in a 2016 interview, “We still pay our royalty check every month; in fact, we’ve never missed a payment; we’ve never not paid a bill. I’m pretty proud of that.”
But he admits the concept has gotten old, and diners’ tastes and habits have changed.
“It’s time to go,” he said. “It really is bittersweet. This has been a great store for us.”
Employees have been told of the impending closure, but Mason said most have taken it well and have remained on the job. There’s no timeline as to when the restaurant will close and when Dollar General will take over the site.
“It’s going to be business as usual until we hear otherwise,” Mason said.
Bonanza was founded in 1963 by Dan Blocker, who played “Hoss” Cartwright on the popular Western-themed television show of the same name.
The first location opened in Westport, Connecticut. Brothers Sam and Charles Wyly bought the restaurant in 1966, and the company grew to as many as 600 restaurants in 1989, when they sold it.
Bonanza united with Ponderosa – which was founded in 1965 in Kokomo, Indiana – in 1997. Some of the Bonanzas became Ponderosa after the merger, but Tupelo did not. The restaurants were under the Metromedia Family Steakhouses chain.
In October 2009, Metromedia Steakhouses Co. and some affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. It emerged in 2009 as Homestyle Dining.
Mason, in 2015, was honored with the first Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award by Homestyle Dining.
Last October, Los Angeles-based FAT Brands Inc, parent company of Fatburger, Buffalo’s Cafe and Buffalo’s Express, completed the acquisition of Homestyle Dining for $10.5 million.