It’s always a shame when our favorite restaurant or store shuts down.

But then we seem to forget about them pretty quickly.

However, it’s not just the small businesses that close their doors for good.

Some of the very biggest companies also don’t always last the distance.

Here are some of America’s most famous companies that had to shut down that you may have forgotten about!


Pan Am

Pan Am was the number one US airline throughout the 20th century.

It revolutionized air travel.

Its planes had a mix of both luxurious first-class and more affordable standard class.

The airline was founded in 1927, and it was the start of the jumbo jet and computerized systems.

At one point, it was the second most recognized brand in the world.

Unfortunately, the glory days didn’t last.

This was due to falling revenues, increased competition, and a spike in aircraft servicing costs that hit the airline hard during the 1970s and 1980s.

Sales decreased following the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988.

This was the beginning of the end for the business.

To make things worse, fuel prices went sky-high in the wake of the Gulf War.

Without anyone to help bail it out, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy in January 1991. 

It shut down for good by December 1991. 


This motorcar brand was founded in 1897 by Ranson E Olds in Lansing, Michigan.

Oldsmobile brought to us the world’s first mass-produced car, the Curved Dash, which came out in 1901.

It was one of America’s most recognizable brands throughout the 20th century.

In total, 35 million Oldsmobile vehicles were produced, most of them by General Motors.

Sales reached their optimum in the 70s and 80s, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass was America’s best-selling car in 1976.

However, by the 90s, flashier cars had taken over, and sales had dropped.

Despite the efforts to reposition Oldsmobile as a high-end ‘Made in America’ brand, General Motors gave up, and Oldsmobile became history in 2004.

Burger Chef

At one point, Burger Chef was the world’s most popular fast-food chain.

The chain was founded in 1954 by the General Equipment Corporation in Indianapolis.

Then in 1972, Burger Chef was America’s second-largest hamburger restaurant chain after McDonald’s.

It was threatening to take over McDonald’s from the number one spot.

McDonald’s eventually cornered the market.

Struggling Burger Chef was sold to Hardee’s parent company Imasco in 1982.

All the remaining outlets were converted into Hardee’s restaurants. 

Howard Johnson’s

Howard Johnson was one of America’s most popular roadside fast-food chains.

It was known for its iconic orange-roofed buildings and simple menu of chicken, clams, and hot dogs.

The restaurant was a firm family favorite for years, operating in 1,000 locations at its peak.

However, it faced competition from other franchises like Applebee’s and Chili’s, and its menu failed to keep up with the times. 

In 1985 it was bought out by Marriott for $65 million with restaurants reopening as hotels and coffee shops.

However, one original Howard Johnson restaurant in Lake George, New York, is still open.

Circuit City

Circuit City was founded in 1949 by Samuel Wurtzel.

By the 70s, outlets were opening up across the nation, and the chain’s format was being copied everywhere.

Then, Circuit City began to lose its edge in the 90s.

Many of its stores were in undesirable locations, while competitors like Best Buy and Walmart stole away customers.

By the mid-2000s, competition from online retailers was the end of the road for Circuit City.

In 2008, the company shut down 155 stores and laid off 17% of its workforce in an effort to become profitable.

Unfortunately, it was unable to make it through Chapter 7 bankruptcy or find a buyer.

In the following year, it closed all its US stores and ceased operations for good.

Circuit has since returned, but not to anything like the scale it was before.

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