Who needs a time machine when you have the internet?
The internet is abuzz with photos of a fully intact Burger King that appears to have been transported straight out of the 1980s but still stands, untouched by time or renovation. Located in the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware, this vintage BK has been closed since 2009 and the space appears unchanged since it opened in the late ’80s.
Trash cans still ask long-gone customers to “somehow get your trash in here” in the fast-food giant’s signature font, and the space still appears to have its original parquet floor, patterned wallpaper, and 80s-style wall decor. The shuttered restaurant is really a liminal space on overdrive.
In regards to what brought the internet’s attention to this piece of culinary history, a snapshot of the space originally occupied by local Jonathan Pruitt on April 11 was posted to a local Delaware-area Facebook page, where it was reportedly Pruitt light was valued on a local level before it got big.
“I thought nothing of it,” Jonathan Pruitt said in a phone call to TODAY Food. “But then, Tuesday morning, people started telling me it was circulating on the internet and now? I don’t know!”
Pruitt, who works in commercial and industrial HVAC systems at the mall and elsewhere, said he is completely shocked by the attention his photo has received on the Internet and now the world. He said he started receiving text messages and phone calls about the image making its way around the internet from Tuesday, June 28, when his photo was taken. posted on redditwhere it received more than 52,000 upvotes, and also on Twitterwhere the photo quickly went viral, with 23,698 retweets and over 185,000 likes.
“My Twitter account is all about retro gaming and nostalgic content from the 80s and 90s,” user @RealJezebelley told TODAY via Twitter direct message regarding their viral tweet, adding that that photo clearly resonated with an aging millennial- base on Twitter. “Many of us older millennials are turning 40 or have just turned 40. Seeing things from our childhood brings joy, especially as we get older.”
Obviously, the image has sparked feelings of nostalgia in viewers both afar and even within state lines. Later in the Twitter thread, a former mall employee posted a video they shot of the space, commenting that it was being used as storage space.
“Lmao, that was literally my storage space in 2019,” they said tweeted†
“I worked at a food service kiosk,” user @loserskwaddd told TODAY via Twitter direct message. “It felt pretty scary. Just a bit stuck in time. Very quiet compared to in the mall.”
When reached for comment, a Burger King spokesperson shared the following statement with TODAY:
“While we can’t confirm any details about this location, we have verified that the glorious retro design and decor is closely related to the Burger King restaurants that operated in the 80’s and 90’s and this is in fact a former Burger King- restaurant.”
Because of all the attention Pruitt’s photos have received, a local Delaware politician gave a deeper look into space Facebook Live together with the general manager of the shopping center.
“Many people in our county and state have extraordinary childhood memories of that mall. That mall is in a very different place now than it was then,” Matt Meyer, director of New Castle County, told TODAY.
Viewers of the clip will see Meyer picking up a bag of fries sitting on one of the tables. He said he and his staff chewed it as they walked around the room – but don’t worry, it was picked up from an open Burger King on the way to this particular room. Aside from potentially decades-old fast food discoveries, Meyer appreciates the interest this restaurant relic is getting.
“I think one of the reasons it’s so appealing to so many people is that it’s a memory,” Meyer said. “The design may be outdated and many people may not like it, but it represents a time when retail was a little bit more humane. People gathered without fear.”
“I’d like to see it become a retro space. I’m sure people would eat it,” added Tom Dahlke, the mall’s general manager, who also told TODAY that the store opened in 1987, meaning parts of that space are as old as “Dirty Dancing” and “The Princess Bride”. †
As for what might happen to the space now that it’s received so much attention, the future of the empty-bellied burger joint remains unclear. Dahlke said there aren’t any serious offers for the space yet, even with all the attention, so anyone whose dream is to open a vintage-style burger joint seemingly pulled from an episode of “Weird stuff‘ has to pick up the phone hurriedly.
“I just thought it looked really neat,” said Pruitt, pointing out 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 with quite an understatement: now the time has come.
EDITOR’S NOTE (July 1, 2022 at 12:52 a.m. ET): This story has been updated with a statement from Burger King.