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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
I also worked at the Mall same time and remember well ,We used to go there after Mall cl
osed at nite.
I heard John Gotti was after the owner. He eventually was whacked and found cut up into
100 pieces on the Warren street bypass.
Do any of you guys have any photos or videos of Gadgets?
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!
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.
I was a Project Manager for the Architecture firm that did the restaurants; I was involved in the Westbury, NY; Buffalo, NY and South, FL locations
Too young for the bar and too broke for the restaurant 😀 but I spent SO much time in the Rochester NY location’s arcade area!! 😀
(Better game selection than even that mall’s Time Out Arcade!)
Got any pictures?
Does anyone remember the Gadgets deep chocolate cake?? We were regulars at the Westbury Gadgets on Merrick Avenue and ever since, we’ve been looking for the equivalent of the “Gadgets cake” – a recipe would be wonderful!!
I was a server there from day 1. I loved that job and had a great time! It was a fun place to work and the staff was awesome! I think of that time often and the people that I met.
Oh I remember Jodi A …. Beautiful young lady and woman
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