Twenty-seven years ago, Greenburgh resident Lowell Hawthorne, his wife Lorna, and four of his siblings and their spouses, pooled all their resources to open the first Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill retail location on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx. By 1996, by which time they owned 17 restaurants throughout New York City, the Hawthornes were encouraged to create franchises selling their signature beef and chicken patties, as well as Jamaican favorites such as jerk chicken, curried goat, and braised oxtail. Today, Hawthorne is President and CEO of the Golden Krust empire, which has grown to include 120 fast-serve restaurants in nine states.
This Sunday at 10 pm, you can catch Hawthorne—who was inspired to start Golden Krust by his parents’ experience running Hawthorne & Son’s Bakery in St. Andrew, Jamaica—on the hit CBS series, Undercover Boss, in which a real-life company honcho goes incognito within his ranks as an entry-level peer. During filming, everything about Golden Krust was scrutinized, from the patty production at its South Bronx factory to customer interactions at restaurants. The experience gave Hawthorne valuable insights into his company’s operations.
Being able to gauge customer complaints and compliments showed us what we need to do during our current expansion, which will bring us to 200 locations,” Hawthorne relates to Westchester. (The company recently moved its corporate headquarters to Greenburgh, and plans to open a second production site in Orangeburg to help service its products to 20,000 retail and institutional locations, in addition to eyeing openings in Canada and abroad.) “It is critical for us to know that recipes are being followed and quality levels maintained.”
Those takeaways reflect what he sees as the reasons behind Golden Krust’s success, namely a strong family structure. And conveying the message through his appearance on Boss that those who’ve endured difficult or less-structured childhoods can do the same was of personal importance.
“Though I was the product of the projects and public assistance, I was still able to achieve the American dream,” Hawthorne says. “That’s a key reason I now spend a lot of time mentoring students and providing scholarships. There are many other types of ‘families’—such as a church or community—which can serve to encourage entrepreneurship. One should not allow one’s zip code to determine whether one succeeds or fails.”