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Who needs a time machine when you have the internet?
The web has been abuzz with photos of a fully intact Burger King that looks transported straight from the 80s but is still standing today, untouched by time or renovation. This vintage BK, located in the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware, has been closed since 2009, and the space looks unchanged since it opened in the late ’80s.
The trash cans still ask long-departed customers to “put your trash here somehow” in the fast food giant’s signature font and the space still appears to have its original hardwood floors, its patterned wallpaper and its 80s style wall decor. The shuttered restaurant is truly a liminal space overdrive.
As for what caught the internet’s attention for this piece of culinary history, a snapshot of the space originally taken by local Jonathan Pruitt on April 11 was posted on a local Delaware-area Facebook page where , according to Pruitt, it was mildly appreciated on a local level before it became big.
“I didn’t think of anything about it,” Jonathan Pruitt said in a phone call with TODAY Food. “But then, Tuesday morning, people started telling me it was circulating on the internet, now what? I do not know!”
Pruitt, who works in commercial and industrial HVAC systems at the mall and elsewhere, said he was completely shocked by the attention his photo got on the internet and now, around the world. He said he started receiving text messages and phone calls about the image circulating the internet from Tuesday, June 28, when his picture was posted on Reddit, where it received more than 52,000 votes positive, and also on Twitterwhere the photo quickly went viral, garnering 23,698 retweets and over 185,000 likes.
“My Twitter account is all about retro gaming and nostalgic 80s and 90s content,” user @RealJezebelley told TODAY via a direct message on Twitter regarding his viral tweet, adding that this photo clearly resonated with a aging millennial base on Twitter. “Many of us millennials are in our 40s or have just turned 40. Seeing things from our childhood brings joy, especially as we go through the years.”
Clearly, the image sparked feelings of nostalgia among viewers in both states and even within state lines. Later in the Twitter thread, a former mall employee posted a video that they took the space, noting that it was being used as storage.
“Lmao, that was literally my riddance in 2019,” they wrote. tweeted.
“I was working at a food stand,” user @loserskwaddd told TODAY via a direct message on Twitter. “It was quite strange. Just a little stuck in time. Very quiet compared to the shopping center.
When reached for comment, a Burger King spokesperson shared the following statement with TODAY:
“While we are unable to confirm specifics regarding this location, we have verified that the gloriously retro design and decor closely matches Burger King restaurants operating in the 1980s and 1990s and that it is in fact of a former Burger King restaurant.”
Due to all the attention Pruitt’s photographs have received, a local Delaware politician provided further insight into the space on Facebook Live with the mall’s general manager.
“Many people in our county and state have amazing childhood memories of this mall. This mall is in a very different place now than it was then,” New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer told TODAY.
Viewers of the clip will see Meyer picking up a bag of fries while sitting on one of the tables. He said he and his staff munched on them as they passed through the space – but don’t worry, he was picked up from an open Burger King on the way to that particular space. Potentially decades-old fast food finds aside, Meyer appreciates the interest in this restaurant relic.
“I think one of the reasons it’s so appealing to so many people is that it’s a keepsake,” Meyer said. “The design may be dated and a lot of people may not think it’s beautiful, but it represents a time when retail was a bit more human. People gathered fearlessly.
“I’d love to see it transformed into a retro space. I’m sure people would eat it,” added mall general manager Tom Dahlke, who also told TODAY that the store opened in 1987, which means parts of this space are as old as ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘The Princess Bride’.”
As for what may happen to the space now that it’s garnered so much attention, the future of the empty-bellied burger joint remains uncertain. Dahlke said there aren’t any serious offers for the space yet, even with all the attention, so anyone who dreams of opening a vintage-style burger apparently taken from an episode of ‘Stranger Things’ should pick up the phone in a hurry.
“I just thought it looked really good,” Pruitt said, mentioning that his first job was at a Burger King in the ’90s, but not at this particular location. “I knew it was there. But the door was never opened.
Well, to end on an understatement: now it has been.
EDITOR’S NOTE (July 1, 2022 at 12:52 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a statement from Burger King.
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