I grew up in Schenectady. I have fond memories of Jumpin’ Jack’s. When I was a kid, my father would take my brother and me to Collins Park, across the street from JJ’s, to swim in Collins Lake. After a couple hours at the lake, he would take us to Jumpin’ Jack’s. I’d always get a plain cheeseburger and fries. I vividly remember sitting at one of the many picnic tables, still wet and shirtless, happily munching away. It was mandatory that we get a soft serve cone too. I don’t know if they still have them, but back then they had these double cone monstrosities. Two ice cream cones in one. I loved those things. There was so much ice cream in them we’d often nearly get sick trying to finish it all.
Then there’s the many times we’d watch the fireworks there. Scotia puts on a very popular fireworks show near the river, every year around the 4th, at Freedom Park in Jumpin’ Jack’s back yard. In spite of the long lines, getting something at JJ’s was always part of the experience. We looked forward to it every year. In fact, a couple of years ago my wife and I took my daughter to see the fireworks there. Even with the crowds, it’s a lot of fun.
Jumpin’ Jack’s is a local treasure. Happily it remains insanely popular to this day.
This past Thursday Jumpin’ Jack’s opened for the season to long lines. WTEN covered it, and there were even a few people waiting in line early in the morning before they opened, similar to the lines that form at Apple stores before a new iPhone is released. WTEN interviewed the manager, and he said, “I don’t understand why, sometimes, [Jumpin’ Jack’s is so popular]… we’re just a restaurant…”.
STOP THE PRESSES!
Jumpin’ Jack’s is just a restaurant?
He then added, “…we must be doing something right.”
I almost fell off my chair. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Restaurants don’t become popular by chance. Special places are special for a reason. Understanding what’s special about your business is important. It’s especially important for a business that is an integral part of the fabric and history of the region like Jumpin’ Jack’s is, to understand, as the French say, their raison d’être.
What is Jumpin’ Jack’s “reason for being”?
Jumpin’ Jack’s is not about the food.
If I want a great burger, I’ll go to Five Guys. If I want a great fish fry, I’ll go to Ted’s. I could go on, but you get the point.
Not that I don’t enjoy the food. I do, and of course the throngs of crowds they attract enjoy the food too. But that’s not what makes it special. The food alone is not the attraction. The entire experience is the attraction. Take Jumpin’ Jack’s and put it in the mall food court and it would likely fail. Because frankly, while the food is good, it’s not unique, and there are better versions of what they sell everywhere.
How many Five Guys have picnic tables overlooking the Mohawk? How many Ted’s Fish Fry have a hugely popular fireworks show in their back yard? How many restaurants have a large and beautiful park just steps away?
How many have all of that together?
Go to Jumpin’ Jack’s. Go with family and friends. Get something to eat, and have a cone afterward. Sit at a picnic table and enjoy the breeze. Then go down to the river and skip some stones. Or go over to Collins Park, and let the little ones’ play on the swings and slides. Bring a frisbee, or a ball and glove, or a basketball. Or go see one of the live music events at Freedom Park. Or stay for the fireworks.
Nope, Jumpin’ Jack’s is not just a restaurant.