For Kathryn Katz, the closure of a Bennigan's restaurant, her favorite neighborhood "watering hole," evoked feelings so strong, she put them into verse.
"Eating out is no longer the same without my friends/At Bennigan's," Katz wrote in a 16-line poem she sent to ABCNews.com. (Read Katz's full poem here.)
The parent company of the restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy protection last year, forcing the closure of dozens of Bennigan's restaurants. Outlets owned by franchisees remained open, but unfortunately for Katz, that did not include the eatery near her suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home.
Katz said she missed the restaurant not just for its food but for its atmosphere. She and her family had become so friendly with the staff that sometimes the waitresses would just sit at their table and chat.
"It was part of a chain," Katz said, "but the people who ran it made it almost like a family place."
As the recession continues to stress American businesses, many aren't surviving -- more than 43,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy in 2008, up 54 percent from the year before, according to the Federal Judiciary -- and that's bringing a different kind of stress to American consumers, said Lars Perner, an assistant professor for clinical marketing at the University of Southern California.
"You have the recession going on and this is just one more thing that makes it harder to bear," Perner said.
Perner said that consumers' attachments to businesses can range from the practical -- they appreciated low prices or convenient locations -- to the nostalgic.
For instance, he said, "I imagine it could be a little disillusioning if the place where you bought your wedding ring went out of business."
ABCNews.com readers across the country shared a range of reflections on the closure of some of their favorite companies. Certain stores and brands drew stronger reactions than others. For more of what readers like Katz had to say, see the next page.
Automaker General Motors announced earlier this week that it would phase out its Pontiac brand next year. GM introduced the brand, known for its Firebird, Trans Am and Grand Prix models, among others, in 1926. Some ABCNews.com readers told us they have long, personal histories with the Pontiac brand.
"I got to help my dad pick out a Bonneville the one year (1963) we lived in West Palm Beach, Florida. I was in fourth grade and we needed a car so Dad and I picked out the most beautiful Bonneville - all white with red trim (not seats, just trim). We never had a better, sweeter car."
- Amy Mayhall, Santa Barbara, Calif.
"My first automobile that I purchased on my own was a 1985 Sunbird. It lasted approximately 10 years, then I purchased a used '94 Sunbird in '95 because they had stopped making them. It too lasted until 2004. ... I put well over 100,000 miles on both of my Pontiacs. I will be retiring soon and I was going to purchase a new Pontiac as my retirement car, but things change, which I just have to accept. ... It's a sad day for us GM drivers."
- Cherisee Beasley, Detroit.
"The last car I owned while living in the U.S. was a Pontiac. I had previously owned Nissans, Fords, a Saab, an MGB and a Toyota. My Pontiac, though, had a real personality and sometimes I felt it almost had a soul. I and many others here in Australia are sad to see Pontiac go."
- Ken Geiberras, Great Western, Victoria, Australia
Richmond, Va.-based electronics retailer Circuit City filed for bankruptcy in November 2008 and began liquidating its more than 500 stores shortly thereafter. The founder of Circuit City opened the first store, then named Wards, in 1949. Last year, the chain employed nearly 43,000 people.
"Circuit City hits close to home. ... My son Cai [had] worked in the Milford, Conn., store and just received a promotion to manager the day before that news broke that they would be going out of business.
He really was proud of his accomplishment in such a short time at Circuit City. I will never forget the look of hurt and sadness at the news.
This is just one of the painful life lessons he and others will learn."
- Cathy Mayberry, Stratford, Conn.
"Circuit City definitely wasn't perfect, but it was one of Best Buy's key competitors. I suspect Best Buy and other electronics retailers will have less pressure to offer better deals going forward."
- Matt Wilcko, Erie, Penn.
"I very much miss Circuit City. I have loyally shopped there for years. Their prices were the best, their customer service was great. ... What a shame they couldn't make it."
- C. Meyers, LeRoy, N.Y.
"I'm not YET missing them, but if/when my laptop that I purchased from them takes a dive, I will be missing Circuit City. I am already missing the money that we paid for the warranty that is now no good! The nearest store was just down the freeway from us, and we made our purchase shortly before it was announced they were going out of business. Had we known, we would have gone elsewhere."
- Monica Morton, Universal City, Texas
Retailer Mervyn's filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2008 and closed its more than 100 stores by the end of the year. Founded in 1949, the Mervyn's stores were largely located in California, Texas, Arizona and other Western states. The Mervyn's name may not be gone for good. The sons of the chain's founder reportedly plan to open an online version of the store.
"I loved Mervyn's and will miss this store greatly. ... From gift cards and shoes [for myself and my daughter] to jewelry, it was once a wonderful store with a good selection. It's difficult to pass by the empty building, now on my way to Target."
- Lynn Nelson, La Mirada, Calif.
"For almost 10 years, I worked for the Hayward, CA department store chain, Mervyn's. I started during my senior year in high school and continued to work throughout my college career. It was a wonderful store, and the entire staff was an extended family, by having picnics, holiday parties, and such. I was sad to see Mervyn's go out of business."
- John, Alexandria, Va.
"As a child, one of my favorite places to visit was Mervyn's. My mom would take the kids to shop for back-to-school clothes and we loved it because Mervyn's had the best clothes in the latest styles. Besides Miller's Outpost, Mervyn's was the place to buy your Levi's 501s. Back then Mervyn's had a toy section, too, and we'd always finish out the trip with a stop at the toy department. When I saw that Mervyn's was shutting their doors it made me realize that I wouldn't be able to share in those memories with my kids."
- Homer Purdy, Ogden, Utah
Steve & Barry's
Discount clothing retailer Steve & Barry's was in business for just a decade when it filed for bankruptcy last year. The company, which was home to actress Sarah Jessica Parker's "Bitten" fashion label, operated some 175 stores but ultimately closed them all.
"My family and I really miss Steve & Barry's. My daughter just graduated college and we bought her college logo t-shirts there for much less than the college bookstore charged. ... My son is heading to college this fall and now we don't have that option. Their stuff may not have been the best quality but it was certainly no worse than Walmart and it lasted long enough for us and the price could not be beat. And it wasn't just college stuff they carried. My daughter loved their Serena Williams shoes. In fact, my wife, daughter and son all bought stuff there. At $10 or less per item you just could not go wrong."
- Bill Rubin, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
"I will definitely miss Steve & Barry's the most since it is the only business that I shopped at that has closed. They had great, stylish clothes for very reasonable prices. Not being a person that is stuck on name brands, Steve & Barry's fit perfectly for me and my family."
- Chad Streit, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Mother's Cookies: Making a Comeback?
When its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last October, Mother's Cookies -- a cookie brand that dates back to before World War I -- were pulled from store shelves. But fans of the brand, known for its pink and white "Circus Animals" and other cookies, may take comfort in knowing that Kellogg's plans to reintroduce the cookies to the market today. Kellogg's, which bought the brand's trademarks and original recipes, insists that the cookies will taste the same, but broken-hearted cookie lovers like the ones below may well have the final say.
"I already miss Mother's Cookies. These were a childhood favorite and when coming home from a long day of school, nothing could be better then a cold glass of milk and a plate of Mother's cookies to make the day great again."
-Jon Incerpi, Tampa, Fla.
"Mother's Cookies GONE just like that. We all grew up on these cookies and I do not know what happened. But it seems to me like we are losing that Americana feeling that gets us throught these hard times. Those familar things and places."
-Rose Castro, Riverside, Calif.
Toy retailer KB Toys filed for bankruptcy in December, 2008, and ultimately closed 277 mall stores and 114 outlet stores. The Pittsfield, Mass.-based chain was founded in 1922.
"The reason I miss KB Stores is because ever since I was a child, I would love to go to KB Toys. At the mall, I would run to KB and play with the toys they had in the front entrance. These awesome little bouncing and walking dogs and pigs always made me smile!
...I have two girls, and while they are only 3 and 2, I bought many of their toys from KB, until the sad day came when I went to the mall to go to KB and some other stores, and noticed a HUGE sign that said 'Going out of business.' It broke my heart knowing that one of the greatest toy stores EVER was not going to be around for my kids to enjoy like I did.
I bought so much of their unique toys and games that NO ONE else sells, and I have left them unopened, until my girls grow up a bit more and can enjoy something special from a special toy store."
- Jeff St. Clair, Tucson, Ariz.
Bennigan's and sister restaurant chain Steak & Ale filed for bankruptcy protection last year. Bennigan's brand and franchising rights, once owned by Metromedia Restaurant Group, were sold to the private equity firm Atalaya Capital Management. Some 150 franchise-owned Bennigan's remain open, but dozens of others have closed. Below is a poem about the restaurant submitted by ABCNews.com reader Kathryn Katz.
"Bennigan's Where Did You Go
Every Tuesday night we'd go
To Bennigan's, our family watering hole.
The hostess, waiters and chef staff
Were friendly, fast and made us laugh.
They knew our kids and we knew theirs.
A family atmosphere, a place to chat and share.
Then the night came when the lights were out.
Bennigan's staff were not there to meet us.
The parking lot was empty and just a small sign
Saying they were closed, no more local dining.
I drove fifteen miles to the next Bennigan's
And like my favorite place, it was closed like the rest.
I still don't understand why my favorite place closed.
Now we're eating McDonalds and other fast food restaurants.
Eating out is no longer the same without my friends
At Bennigan's. And that's all I have to say."
-Kathryn Katz, Sunrise, Fla.