On December 2, 2017, Lowell Hawthorne CEO of Golden Krust Bakery and Grill died tragically.
Lowell was born May 1, 1960 in the hills of rural St. Andrew to parents Ephraim and Mavis Hawthorne who established a bakery Hawthorne and Sons in 1949. He was one of eleven siblings and got his first exposure to baking working in their establishment.
In 1981, Lowell migrated to the United States of America. In 1989, after working as an accountant with the New York Police Department to start Golden Krust Bakery and Grill.
At that time, banks were unwilling to lend to restaurants because of the high failure rate. Lowell along with 4 of his siblings and spouses pooled their resources and founded the company. The first store was opened in Bronx. Over time they developed nine varieties of patties including beef, ackee, jerk chicken, jerk fish. They also began serving full meals such as ackee and saltfish, curried goat etc. as well as Jamaican pastries like bullas and bun and cheese.
As the company grew, it was able to supply supermarkets, correctional institutions and schools. By 1996, having opened 17 stores in New York alone, Golden Krust Bakery and Grill decided to franchise their operations. In doing so the company became the first Caribbean owned entity to do so. At the time of Lowell’s untimely passing, the company had established 122 branches in 9 states along the US eastern seaboard stretching from Masachussetts to Florida with the exception of South Carolina and employed 1,800 people.
The success of Golden Krust enabled Lowell to become a philanthropist – giving scholarship money to students of his alma mater Oberlin High, money to the University of the West Indies, thanksgiving meals to senior citizens.
For Lowell’s accomplishments, he was awarded Jamaica Observer Business Leader in 2010. In 2012, the University of the West Indies awarded him an honorary doctorate. At the time of his receiving this award he launched his book “The Baker’s Son” at the Terra Nova hotel.
The success of the restaurant attracted media attention from the likes of Black Enterprise, Forbes, New York Daily News, New York Times, CNN FN. Lowell was also featured on an episode of the Emmy award winning series “Undercover Boss”.
With all of Lowell’s accomplishments and good fortune, it is hard to understand how such an inspirational figure would want to end what seemed like a great life. He had just a few weeks earlier celebrated the birth of his first grandchild. In his business life he had the mental toughness to succeed in the highly competitive restaurant industry and to resist extortion attempts by organized crime elements. However, as strong as we human beings are, we do have our frailties and Lowell was no different.
When I look at the many contributions that Lowell Hawthorne made to his community, I would rather remember how he lived rather than how he died. RIP.