Saturday, May 26, 2007

The first KFC

My wife and I drove by the World's First Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant today. We were futon shopping in South Salt Lake when we randomly came across the landmark eatery. The restaurant itself looked like any other modern KFC, with stuccoed walls, red and white striped window canopies, and predictable, if not untasteful landscaping, and I wouldn't have noticed it as more than part of the blurry background of commerce surrounding me as I waited for a traffic signal to turn green if it hadn't been for the large, anachronistic sign in front of the building that sported a black and white image of what looked like colonel Sanders that read "Herman's Cafe."

"Harman's Cafe?" I said to my wife, wondering why Colonel Sanders' face was on some random cafe's signboard. Somewhere in my memory I knew that the first KFC had been in Utah, and somewhere in my mind I knew that I was probably starring right at it, but the new building next to the old sign threw me off just enough to make me unsure.

"See there," my wife said, pointing to a smalller, chicken-bucket-shaped sign that read, "World's First Kentucky Fried Chicken." I wondered allowed to my wife why the KFC people had chosen to build a cookie cutter strip-mall reject of a store on the site of what must have been the old restaurant. Certainly the old store had more character than the stuccoed shoebox in front of us. In fact, it did, if you consider dated brick facades, and dingy parking lots "character." According to a Desert News article that covered the demolitions of the old store, the owners said "we wanted to upgrade it and build a modern KFC there. We wanted it to be attractive for our customers."

Image courtesy Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press (borrowed with the utmost integrity and all due credit from for educational use only, so I hope you're learning something

According to the exhausting (not to be confused with exhaustive) history at, the original KFC franchise was purchased by Salt Lake City businessman Pete Harman in 1952. Harman apparently was the brain child behind the chicken bucket, a masterpiece of marketing without which you and I might have to order our extra crispy chicken in a box, or worse, one of those plastic bags that grocery store chicken comes in. Anyway, Harman and the Colonel got into the business and you and I know the rest of the story--thousands of stores, billions of dollars in profits, and just recently, zero gallons of trans fat oil.

Douglas Pizac of the Associated press took this fantastic picture of the old building on an overcast April Wednesday in 2004, and I wonder if Pizac really works for the AP, or if he's a DNews photographer, or if he was just some guy with a camera. Once Melissa took a picture of me for a DNews article and the DNews credited the AP with her photograph.

According to, you can get a bucket of finger-licken chicken in 80 countries around the world. I've been to an international KFC twice, both times in Japan, and both times I did not eat. The first trip occured while serving as a missionary for The LDS church in Japan. My mission companion and I had been meeting with a semi-recluse man in his 30's who had a smoking problem. We challenged him to quit, and offered to buy him dinner if he kicked the habit by New Years day, which was three weeks away. At the end of three weeks, we took him to KFC to celebrate. I told him we only had 1000 yen (about 10$) to spend (not a lot for three people to eat out on, especially in Japan). I figured he would take this to mean that he ought to choose something that was about 33o yen, so we could all get something. He didn't take it that way. He ordered a meal that cost 700 yen. We lied and said we weren't hungry.

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