Monday, March 22, 2010

KFC Franchise

KFC owner has held franchise for 50 years
By Ryan Carter Staff Writer
Posted: 03/19/2010 07:34:52 PM PDT

WHITTIER - When Mary Anne Thielmann Williams tasted her first piece of a certain pressure- cooked piece of chicken in the 1950s, she knew its recipe's creator, Colonel Harland Sanders, was on to something.

In fact, back then her husband, Vern, was convinced enough about Sanders' mysterious mix of herbs and spices to buy into Sanders' nascent franchise.


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LADDER OF SUCCESS
BUSINESS: KFC Whittier

WHERE: 16161 Leffingwell Road and 13106 Whittier Blvd., Whittier.

SECRET TO SUCCESS: Hard work, clean place, good service, keeping it in the family.


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By 1960, Vern and Mary Ann were selling Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken out of their 15-by- 45-foot Mary Ann's Kitchen in Whittier. And from time to time, Colonel Sanders himself walked in to check on things - clad in his signature white suit and black tie.

"He'd come in unannounced ... he was very particular, very clean," Thielmann Williams said. "He was very friendly, hard-working, very personable."

You just had to make sure you were doing it - cooking it - right. He'd take off his jacket, put on an apron, role up his sleeves and take a taste of this or that.

"If there was something wrong ... he would throw something," she said, referring to his insistence on quality.

Fifty years later, Thielmann Williams and her family still believe in what the Colonel started.

Thielmann Williams, 86, was recently honored by KFC's corporate owner, Yum!


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Brands Inc., for 50 years as a KFC franchisee.
"It's a good feeling," she said.

It's a feeling born from a commitment to her restaurants, which her family has since pursued. When Vern died in 1982, the one-time registered nurse took the reins of the business, which after a few moves and a partnership stint, includes a store on Leffingwell Road and another on Whittier Boulevard.

"She picked up where my grandfather left off," said Elizabeth Hopkins, the business' vice president and Thielmann Williams' granddaughter.

In the beginning, Vern and Mary Ann had one employee. Vern was working seven days a week to keep the business going. The pressure fryers they used were small enough for a home kitchen, and there was barely enough parking at the site.

But as the area's population grew, so did demand.

"It kept growing," Thielmann Williams said.

The smaller pressure fryers turned into larger kitchen equipment that cooked for the masses. The oil they use has changed to zero trans-fat. The menu has expanded to include Extra Crispy and grilled chicken to meet a growing demand, even among fast food customers, for healthier fare.

Thielmann Williams' family grew up seeing the growth and the changes.

Her son-in-law, Richard Hopkins, is now the president of the business. Son Michael Thielmann is secretary, and as vice president, granddaughter Elizabeth Hopkins is poised for the next generation.

"My whole family, we're all involved in it," Elizabeth Hopkins said, adding that she remembered doing little jobs at the business when she was 9. "We care a great deal about this business, it's a part of who we are."

So much so that Richard Hopkins has added some creative touches, including a food delivery service - rare in the chain, the family said - and a new partnership catering to high schools.

In the meantime, Mary Ann Thielmann Williams, who still lives in Whittier, kiddingly calls herself "The Complainer."

But the complaining has set a standard for keeping her restaurants clean and customers well-served. That's the key to longevity, she said.

So is keeping customers.

"A lady about 94 years old ... she told me the other day, she's still eating my chicken," Thielmann Williams said.

To celebrate 50, today KFC Whittier will offer a $3 special - a leg and a thigh, a side of mash potatoes and a biscuit. Buy one, and you get the second one free.

Read more: KFC owner has held franchise for 50 years - Whittier Daily News http://www.whittierdailynews.com/news/ci_14712678#ixzz0iucYHDVR

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