Who needs a time machine when you have the internet?
The web has been abuzz with photos of a fully intact Burger King that looks transported straight from the '80s yet is still standing today, untouched by time or renovation. This vintage BK, located in the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware, has been closed since 2009, and the space appears unchanged since it first opened in the late '80s.
Trash cans still ask long-gone patrons to "get your trash in here some way" in the fast food giant’s signature font and the space still appears to have its original parquet flooring, patterned wallpaper and '80s-style wall décor. The shuttered restaurant is truly a liminal space on overdrive.
As to what brought the internet’s attention to this piece of culinary history, a snapshot of the space originally taken by local Jonathan Pruitt on April 11 was posted on a local Delaware-area Facebook page where, according to Pruitt, it was mildly appreciated on a local level before it went big time.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” said Jonathan Pruitt in a phone call with 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’s completely shocked by the attention his photograph has gotten across the internet and now, the world. He said he started receiving texts and phone calls about the image making its way around the internet starting on Tuesday, June 28, when his photo was posted on Reddit, where it received more than 52,000 upvotes, and also on Twitter, where the picture quickly went viral, garnering 23,698 retweets and over 185,000 likes.
“My Twitter account is all about retro gaming and nostalgic 80s and 90s content,” user @RealJezebelley told TODAY via Twitter direct message regarding their viral tweet, adding that photo clearly resonated with an aging millennial base on Twitter. “Many of us elder millennials are turning or have just turned 40. Seeing things from our childhood sparks joy particularly as we move on in years.”
Clearly, the image has sparked feelings of nostalgia in viewers both states away and even within state lines. Later in the Twitter thread, a former employee of the mall posted a video they took of the space, remarking that it was used as a storage space.
"Lmao that was literally my storage room back in 2019," they tweeted.
“I was working at a food service kiosk,” user @loserskwaddd told TODAY via Twitter direct message. “It felt pretty eerie. Just kinda stuck in time. Very quiet compared to out in the mall.”
When reached for comment, a Burger King spokesperson shared the following statement with TODAY:
“Though we aren’t able to confirm details regarding this location, we have verified that the gloriously retro design and décor lines up closely with Burger King restaurants operating in the 1980’s and 1990’s and this is in fact a former Burger King restaurant.”
Because of all of the attention Pruitt’s photographs have received, a local Delaware politician provided a deeper look into the space on Facebook Live along with the general manager of the mall.
“Many people in our county and in our state have extraordinary childhood memories from that mall. That mall is in a very different place now than it was then,” New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer told TODAY.
Viewers of the clip will see Meyer pick up a bag of fries sitting on one of the tables. He said he and his staff munched on them as they walked through the space — but don’t worry, it was picked up from an open Burger King on the way to this particular space. Potentially decades-old fast food discoveries aside, Meyer appreciates the interest that this restaurant relic is getting.
“I think one reason it's so attractive to so many people is that it’s a memory,” Meyer said. “The design might be outdated, and many people might not think that it’s beautiful, but it represents a time when retail was a little more human. People gathered together without fear.”
“I would love to see it turned into a retro space. I’m sure people would eat it up,” added the mall’s general manager, Tom Dahlke, who also told TODAY that the store opened in 1987, which means parts of that space are as old as “Dirty Dancing” and “The Princess Bride.”
As for what may happen to the space now that it has gotten so much attention, the empty-bellied burger joint’s future remains unclear. Dahlke said there are no serious offers for the space yet, even with all the attention, so anyone whose dream it is to open a vintage-style burger joint seemingly pulled from an episode of “Stranger Things” should pick up the phone posthaste.
“I just thought it looked really neat,” said Pruitt, mentioning that his first job was at a Burger King in the '90s, though not at this particular location. “I knew it was there. But the door was never opened.”
Well, to end on quite an understatement: Now it has been.
EDITOR'S NOTE (July 1, 2022 at 12:52 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a statement from Burger King.