Saturday, January 26, 2008

History Repeats Itself

Well it's about a black-owned McDonald's restuarant near 65th and Stony Island. These owners of this Micky D's also pays homage to a man who came before them. He used to be a barber and a CTA clerk and made a leap into entrepreneurship. Even credited the man who made Micky D's into a household name, Ray Kroc who was willing to offer franchise opportunities to blacks.

This article is from Citizen Newspapers and I figured that I'd better get it while it's hot before I won't be able to get anything beyond the first three paragraphs...

The thought of Blacks owning McDonald’s franchises was inconceivable 13 years after the burger chain first opened in 1955.

But the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed that. King’s death imbued something in McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. He believed that Blacks were key to sustaining their communities, including operating their own McDonald’s franchises.

That ideal was not lost 40 years later during the grand re-opening celebration of the first Black-owned McDonald’s Monday. Hundreds of dignitaries including Don Thompson, McDonald’s first Black president, paid tribute to a south side barber named Herman Petty, who in 1968 shepherded the first Black McDonald’s on 65th and Stony Island into being.

Also attending the event was Ernie Adair, president of National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA), Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams, Rev. Arthur M. Brazier and Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5) and Tony Preckwinkle (4).

Petty did more than just open a restaurant, he "opened up the door for so many other people to be able to have entrepreneurial careers with McDonald’s," said Thompson, who started his own McDonald’s career at the 65th and Stony store in the 1990s.

"It is very fitting that we stand here on this day... to be able to recognize someone who opened up the doors and opened opportunities for so many," he said, adding that today there are 1,250 Black-owned McDonald’s nationwide.

Yolanda Travis, current owner of the 65th and Stony Island McDonald’s, echoed that sentiment. Travis was excited to have the grand reopening on the King Holiday, because he was a man who preached economic development.

"And here I am a young girl from the West Side of Chicago and now I’m with a multi-million dollar company," said Travis, a McDonald’s franchisee for five years, who now owns four city restaurants. "I’m loving this."

While others referenced the historic significance of the restaurant’s grand reopening, Petty said making history was the furthest from his mind. He was hoping he didn’t fail.

"I was so scared and shook up, all I wanted to do is try to make it happen," he recalled, adding that owning a McDonald’s was a rare concept for Blacks during that time.

"Blacks, who had money and who had graduated from college, weren’t excited about McDonald’s or any other hamburger places. It wasn’t popular then," he explained.

The Hairston household shared that sentiment, recalled Ald. Hairston whose father, Lester Hairston was also a founding NBMOA member.

"I remember when my father came home and told my mother he invested in some hamburgers and ... she was really mad," Hairston reminisced. "But it turned out all right. Who would have known McDonald’s would be a conglomerate that it is today."

But Hairston lauded Petty for fulfilling King’s dream "to take advantage of all the opportunities America has to offer."

However, Petty said all the credit goes to Kroc.

"We have to give it all to Ray Kroc," he said, noting that the restaurant chain’s founder was a forward thinker who eight months after King’s death "thought about changing the way corporate America operated in urban areas."

Kroc, Petty noted, diversified his company at all levels in an era where integration was slow to catch on. Petty added that Kroc opened his company for all minorities including Blacks and women. And Petty seized that opportunity.

"When they were making that decision, I just happened to walk through the door — to be there at the right place and at the right time, and I became number one," Petty said.

But owning a McDonald’s franchise was not in Petty’s plans. Petty, who owned a barbershop and worked as a clerk for Chicago Transit Authority, always looked for other business opportunities. He often attended franchise shows at the Conrad Hilton where he met McDonald’s representatives who were recruited franchisees.

"That is how I got interested," he said. "These people gave me a card. I investigated it and never looked back."
It's a very good article. I guess I'll have to hand it to Ray Krock to make a decision to invest in inner city communities. Not only that but to be ahead of the curve in offering blacks and women opportunites not only to own franchises but also have leadership positions in corporate America.

You know not that I would have dreams of opening my own Micky D's but if I was a black owner of a Micky D's franchise and I had all the money in the world it would be black themed. On Clark and Ontario there's a Rock & Roll McDonald's perhaps someone should come up with an Motown, R&B, Soul, Jazz, or Blues themed Micky D's and then they should name that restaurant Micky D's instead of McDonald's. Hmmm, well I think it could be a good idea.

1 comment:

JP Paulus said...

Doesn't the McDonald's at 95th & the Dan Ryan have an African-theme? When we drive by, we see art reminiscent of ancient Egypt there. Haven't had a chance to go inside & check out for myself, to se ehe extent of it.

Also, the mentioned Yolanda Travis (see article) has her 47th & COttage Grove McDonald's known as the "Gospel McDonald's", playing gospel music for her customers.

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