In late June, a photo of a retro Burger King found hidden behind a wall in a Delaware mall went viral, garnering more than 180,000 likes on Twitter alone.
The photo, originally taken by Jonathan Pruitt in April according to the viral posts, was from inside Wilmington, Delaware’s Concord Mall. One person jokingly compared it to “North America’s version of Roman ruins,” implying that the restaurant was something previously hidden away from the world.
Many of the people who replied to the thread wondered how it was possible for a mall to “lose” an entire Burger King within its walls in the first place.
Is there an abandoned Burger King behind a wall in a Delaware mall?
- Tom Dahlke, general manager of Concord Mall
- Burger King
- New Castle County Government
- Videos from within the restaurant posted to social media by mall staff
Yes, there's an abandoned Burger King concealed behind a temporary wall in a Delaware mall. But mall staff were aware of the Burger King’s existence, so it isn’t exactly a new discovery.
WHAT WE FOUND
The viral photo of the abandoned Burger King is from a real shuttered Burger King restaurant located at the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware. In a phone call with VERIFY, Tom Dahlke, general manager of Concord Mall, explained that the fast food restaurant opened in 1987 and closed in 2009. He confirmed it was closed off behind a wall, and that this is because the mall typically puts a wall in front of the entryway of a location where a tenant is moving out and a new one hasn’t yet moved in.
The New Castle County Government Facebook page posted a video in which Dahlke gave a tour of the abandoned Burger King. The video revealed the restaurant is behind a temporary wall with a door, and Dahlke mentioned that the mall has been attempting to find a renter for the Burger King’s space.
In the video, Dahlke explained one of the mall’s vendors was walking by the Burger King’s location while an employee was watering the plants within it, noticed the door was open and snapped a photo because he thought it looked cool.
That vendor was Jonathan Pruitt, who confirmed his identity on his own Facebook account. He said he originally posted it to a private Wilmington, DE, Facebook group a couple of months ago.
"I always knew the Burger King was there, but the door had never been open," Pruitt said in an interview with VERIFY. "And one morning, the door was open. I just snapped the picture of it."
Pruitt said that, although he knew about the Burger King's existence before, the mall's old owners never let anyone in, likely because they used the restaurant for storage. New ownership took over in 2020, and then one day left the door open, allowing Pruitt to satisfy his curiosity.
According to one person on Twitter, the Burger King was used as a storage space in 2019. That person posted a video they took when they were in the abandoned restaurant, showcasing several boxes spread throughout.
A security guard at the mall also posted a video taken from inside the Burger King in May 2022, although that was a month after the now-viral photo was first taken and posted to Facebook. Both the security guard’s video and a second video posted by the person who recorded its use as a storage space show a door leading into the restaurant.
The restaurant depicted in the photo and the videos that have followed is of a real Burger King with retro décor.
“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,” a Burger King spokesperson told VERIFY in an email.
Dahlke told VERIFY that Namdar Realty Group bought Concord Mall in January 2020, and that the group often takes over distressed malls.
“I am deeply surprised at all of this to be quite honest,” Dahlke said. “It’s a space that we want to rent. It never ever occurred to me that anything like this would happen.”
“This is putting us back on the map despite what anyone thought. We are alive and kicking.”
Dahlke said there were no offers on the property as of June 30.
Pruitt's reaction was similar to Dahke's.
"Never even crossed my mind for something like this to happen. I mean, people make a living out of doing this and I just did it by accident," Pruitt said. "It's a good moment in my life. I'm just happy. I can't get over it, honestly."