Beverly Hills News
Harry Lewis Dies At 93
By Shelby Stiner
Jun 12, 2013 - 5:26:18 AM
BEVERLY HILLS—Harry Lewis, the founder of famous burger joint Hamburger Hamlet, died on Sunday, June 9 at the age of 93 in his Beverly Hills rest home.
Lewis was born on April 1, 1920 in Hollywood on Wilton Place. He was put under contract as an actor for Warner Bros. studios in the 1940s and is probably best remembered for his role in Key Largo as Edward “Toots” Bass, one of Edward G. Robinson’s henchmen in the film.
It wasn’t until 1950 that Lewis and his at the time girlfriend, Marilyn Friedman opened the first Hamburger Hamlet restaurant on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. With the opening, Lewis and Friedman opened a new concept of dining such as the same dining experience in each restaurant, a concept that would be carried to similar future restaurant chains like The Cheesecake Factory. At the height of it’s popularity, the restaurant chain had 24 outlets across the country with Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Curtis as some of the restaurants regulars.
Lewis and Marilyn worked in separate roles. Lewis not only was the face of the company, but he paid attention to the details of the restaurant and focused on its daily operations. Marilyn focused on the overall industry, expanding the chain and writing company policy.
Adam Lewis, Lewis’ son, said his father wanted to spend his time at the restaurant.
“He went to work - that was his hobby,” said Adam Lewis. “I bet you he is the only guy who, when he got to the pearly gates, said: ‘I wish I spent more time at the restaurant.’”
Lewis sold the chain in the late 1980s for $30 million. Since then, the chain’s once 24 location spread has fallen to five locations, three of the locations around the Los Angeles area.
Lewis is survived by his wife, Marilyn; his two sons, Adam and David; and his five grandchildren.
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