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Victoria Station

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Victoria Station is a chain of railroad-themed prime rib houses that was at the peak of its popularity in the 1970s , but filed for bankruptcy in 1986. The concept evolved from a Cornell University Hotel School graduate project, according to original owners Bob Freeman, Peter Lee, and Dick Bradley, graduates of the school. Innovative and unique, the first restaurant was located in San Francisco. The Baby Boom generation was coming into their own, and in the early 70’s was looking for casual lounges and restaurants to adopt as their own. The company once had some 100 locations in the U.S. and Canada, but the number has dropped to one, in Salem (MA). Other locations with the name Victoria Station may be under different management (unverified). The theme of the restaurant is loosely based on London’s Victoria Station. Antique English railway artifacts provided the decor inside, but the exteriors were composed of American Railway cars, primarily boxcars, with a signature Caboose placed in front. On the “entry platform” to each restaurant was an iconic London-style phone booth. Prime rib was the featured item on a limited menu that included steaks, barbecued beef ribs, and shrimp done in a variation of scampi style known as “Shrimp Victoria” Most of the restaurants used authentic railway cars for dining areas. (often boxcars or cabooses). The chain flourished, often flamboyantly, in the 1970s , as recounted in a memoir Prime Rib and Boxcars:Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? by former Victoria Station corporate marketing manager Tom Blake. The company was among the first restaurant companies to offer its employees stock options and an ESOP program. Many early employees of the company saw their shares soar from a dollar a share to fourteen. This created an espirit de corps that accounted for the upbeat tone in most of the units. Many feel its peak was the culmination of a joint venture with Universal Studios that resulted in Victoria Station Universal City, a landmark on the “hill” near where Citywalk now stands. At its peak the Universal City location was among the highest grossing restaurants in the nation.

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