Gadgets Restaurant

Lets talk about Gadgets, the lesser-known and not as successful (as the likes of Showbiz Pizza Place and Chuck E. Cheese) animatronic themed restaurant from the early 1980s. From 1982-1984 there was a cutting edge restaurant called Gadgets upstairs at the Berkshire Mall. It featured animatronic singing robots as entertainment.

  • Gadgets Restaurant
  • Gadgets Restaurant
  • Gadgets Restaurant
  • Gadgets Restaurant

A 20-minute show entertained guests every half hour. For kids, Looney Tunes was the featured presentation. It was also targeted to adults, featuring a LaBARatory bar and evening shows as well. Above are images of the Berkshire Mall location, taken by the programmer of the animatronics.

Laboratory Bar, image from the 1982 Reading Eagle article about the establishments opening

The company behind the eatery boasted plans for eventually having 150 locations all over the United States. The first location opened in 1981 in Ocean Township, NJ and was originally called Gizmos. This first location was renamed Gadgets in February 1982. The Reading, PA Berkshire Mall location opened shortly after, and boasted five Looney Tune animatronics and the Sammy Sands the piano player.

Image from Reading Eagle’s article about the Grand Opening of Gadgets at the Berkshire Mall

The five Looney Tunes character animatronics were a one-of-a-kind prototype and the first to appear in any Gadgets restaurant. The Berkshire Mall location was also the first to get a Looney Tunes stage show.*

Gadgets Restaurant was fairly short lived and a bit overzealous in their plans for country-wide takeover. The chain had a brief expansion to 12 locations in the United States, including Niles, Ohio (December 1982 opening) and Towson, Maryland (Jan 1983 opening). They also attempted a smaller scale “cafe” style concept location that only featured Sammy Sands. It seems like whomever was behind Gadgets specifically chose smaller cities just outside of major metropolitan areas to market this restaurant to.

The idea proved too costly to make a profit. The cost of buying and servicing animatronics was very high at the time, and the revenue gained was not enough to counter it in a mainly children’s themed restaurant. Gadget’s ultimately closed down after just two years. According to a comment on this website, the location at the Berkshire Mall was rumored to have a particularly shady end:

Does anyone remember the shady Gadgets disappearing story? They were behind on rent (owed 10s of thousands) and just packed up and took off in the middle of the night, leaving behind lots of the fixtures in the restaurant.

CEF

This rumor appears to not be based in truth, as this 1984 Reading Eagle article about the closing of the Gadget’s location stated that Gadgets Restaurant gave the Berkshire Mall 2 weeks notice about vacating and was already on a month-to-month leasing plan, meaning the writing was on the wall.

Do you remember the Gadgets Restaurant? Do you have any images or stories to share? If you have any answers feel free to drop a comment or email us at [email protected]


*Informational contributions to this article were made by Pasq Notrook

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

6 Replies to “Gadgets Restaurant”

  1. I remember Gadgets well. As I recall I believe it was Porky Pig’s head falling off at one point. Must have been a real horror show for the poor kids in the audience. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) used to go there on occasion. As a matter of fact she worked at The Listening Booth at the time. Ah, the good old days.

  2. I heard John Gotti was after the owner. He eventually was whacked and found cut up into
    100 pieces on the Warren street bypass.

    1. I have yet to find any of the Berkshire Mall location, but if anyone wants to send them my way I would love to add them to this article!

  3. I worked at Gadgets from the time it opened for 2 summers I waited tables and remember it very well, I was 22 at the time and loved working there. They guy in the black and white picture is Gregg Smith he was the original manager and Linda Adamczyk a server. I had a blast at that place met really attractive women and had a great time.

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