John Garneau, the man who turned a small restaurant in Clarion into franchises in three states, died Tuesday in Florida at the age of 90.
Born in Connecticut, Garneau ended up in Clarion when he was assigned to train Army cadets during World War II. After the war, he began a small restaurant in Clarion in 1949. His initial venture blossomed into the construction of numerous Johnny Garneau Smorgasbord and Golden Spike restaurants in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
Locally, Garneau is also lauded as being an early organizer for Clarion’s Autumn Leaf festival, especially in terms of attracting Pittsburgh celebrities for the ALF parades.
He also was known as an inventor and innovator in the restaurant world. Among Garneau’s inventions was something he patented as the “Covered Food Serving Table,” the forerunner of the sneeze guards that are now integral to salad bars everywhere.
Garneau was married to a Clarion woman, Lois Space, who passed away in 2000. He is survived by five children.