After 48 years in business, Sacramento institution Nationwide Freezer Meats has closed its doors – most likely for good.
“I’ve just decided I’m done with it,” said owner John Gonzales, 60, before climbing down from the roof of the 1930 H Street property. “I decided I want to go hiking before I have to take my walker with me.”
Gonzales said running the family-owned business hasn’t been the same since losing his mother and father.
Nationwide Freezer Meats began as a butcher shop in 1969, but lunch orders started piling up after John’s father, Frank, began serving up samples. They soon focused on hamburgers. The business never reached the national status the name implied. Its signature was the French cheeseburger with homemade Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, served on a round French bun.
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The business moved to its current location in 2001 and maintained old-school kitsch with decor depicting Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, James Dean, John Lennon and Jim Morrison.
The loss of Gonzales’ father in 2004 and mother, Ramona, in 2010, contributed to his decision.
“Each time someone checked out, they left a little more work. It wasn’t as much fun,” Gonzales said.
The 8,000-square-foot property is for sale. An online real estate listing notes the restaurant space and adjacent office space. Add on-site parking, and the lot grows to 12,800 square feet, the listing notes. The price is not disclosed. A previous listing put the value at $2.4 million.
Rodney Blackwell, who founded the Sacramento Burger Battle, said he wishes he’d have had time for one more patty from Nationwide.
“The restaurant circle of life is tough sometimes. It was a great burger in a town of amazing burgers,” said Blackwell. “I just wish I would’ve had a chance to get one last Double French with cheese with a side of gigantic fries.”
Asked whether the “Nationwide” name was for sale, Gonzales was less resolute.
“I’m not 100 percent sure I’m done,” Gonzales said, who previously battled thyroid cancer. “I don’t know that I’m done, so I don’t want to sell the name ‘Nationwide Freezer Meats.’ I just need a good rest. I can’t go on vacation without thinking about this place.”