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CARIBBEAN FEVER EXCLUSIVE: Friends Of Golden Krust CEO, Lowell Hawthorne, Speak On His Life, Career And Alleged Suicide
The question on everyone's lips across the Jamaican diaspora is why Lowell Hawthorne, CEO and founder of the hugely successful Golden Krust chain with 120 retail outlets across the United States, would commit suicide.
Police reports and accounts from those close to the family say Hawthorne shot himself in the head last Saturday evening at the Golden Krust head offices at 3958 Park Avenue in the Bronx, New York.
Since then, all three leading New York City newspapers have lavished the story with attention. The New York Times reported the tragedy without attributing a reason. The New York Daily News reported that the Golden Krust CEO was plagued with tax debt before the suicide, saying he owed US$15,000 in state taxes, and US$150,000 in city taxes. And, New York Post tabloid emblazoned a headline, screaming that Hawthorne killed himself amid fears the Feds were investigating him for evading millions of dollars in taxes.
But among Jamaican residents in New York and those who knew Hawthorne well, the swirling media suppositions found little traction, and many of his friends, in fact, rubbished those reasons, especially those from the Post.
"A lie dem a tell. Absolutely crazy talk. Nutten nuh go so," said one close colleague of Hawthorne, who did not wish to be identified.
Louis Grant, an executive of Irie Jam Radio and a close friend, franchise owner and tennis buddy of Hawthorne's for decades, gave no credence to the rumours. He was on his way to the Hawthorne's home to huddle with family members yesterday evening, and he painted a picture of Hawthorne as a happy family man, a man of great faith and one who was thrilled with all the exciting things that were happening in his dream life.
"With all his accomplishments, Mr Hawthorne was the quintessential success story from Jamaica and the Caribbean," Grant told The Gleaner. "He had done the remarkable with establishing more than 120 stores. He was getting ready to take on Canada as a new frontier, a new plant in Spring Valley, New York, was being prepared, and most of all, he was super-excited about the birth of his first grandchild, who was just born a few weeks ago, and he raved about stopping by the house almost daily to see the kid," Grant added.
Louis Grant, an executive of Irie Jam Radio and a close friend, franchise owner and tennis buddy of Lowell Hawthorne, pointed out that Hawthorne was passionate about education, and he provided numerous scholarships for students in the United States, in Jamaica and for his alma mater in Jamaica, Oberlin High School. Hawthorne was also chairman of the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies.
Irwine Clare, managing director of Caribbean Immigrant Services also rubbished the media claims.
"What is most disconcerting to me in Hawthorne's demise are the numerous commentary being waged not only on social media but in some cases, by news organisations on tax issues. I choose at this time to celebrate Hawthorne's spectacular achievements and I want to allow the family to mourn their loss respectfully," he told The Gleaner.
Founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery food chain, commits suicide inside his own factory Dahved Levy speaks with friends and business associates of Golden Krust's CEO Lowell Hawthorne about his alleged suicide. Bobby Clark and Louie Grant both worked closely with Hawthorne. They talk about his life, successful career and his shocking death. Check out the interview below:
Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery founder & CEO Lowell Hawthorne, 57, commits suicide in Bronx factory
The New York-based founder and CEO of a Caribbean fast food chain has taken his own life, police say.
Lowell Hawthorne, 57, allegedly shot himself inside the Morrisania, The Bronx factory of his Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill on Saturday night, the NY Daily News reported.
Former employees of his told the Daily News that he was 'humble and 'good' and were 'shocked' at hearing he had likely committed suicide.
Lowell Hawthorne, 57, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in The Bronx on Saturday, police say
Hawthorne died inside the Morrisania, The Bronx factory of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, of which he served as founder and CEO
Employees said they saw his car - a Tesla 85D - parked between two lanes.
Hawthorne emigrated to the United States from Jamaica and opened his first Golden Krust operation in 1989.
He and his family pooled money to open the modest store.
The operation sold Jamaican beef patties and it gradually evolved into a small fast-food empire.
Hawthorne started Golden Krust in 1989 and today there are more than 100 locations across the United States
There are now more than 100 Golden Krust establishments across the United States selling patties and other foodstuffs such as jerk chicken and plantains.
Golden Krust also produces tens of millions frozen patties to be sold in retail.
It is not clear who will take over the operation of Golden Krust.
Lowell Hawthorne, who started the Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery with a Bronx storefront, had since moved production of his meat patties to a Bronx facility.
The founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill killed himself inside his Bronx factory Saturday, police sources said.
Lowell Hawthorne, 57, shot himself inside the Park Ave. building near E. 173rd St. in Claremont about 5:30 p.m., sources said.
More than a dozen current and former employees stood in disbelief outside the factory hours later. Some had tears rolling down their cheeks.
“He was a good boss, humble and a good businessman,” said Pete Tee, 27, a former employee.
“He never seemed sad. This is just terrible news right now.”
Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store on E. Gun Hill Rd. in 1989.
He built the Jamaica beef patty purveyor into a national empire boasting more than 120 restaurants across the U.S.
It also produces more than 50 million patties a year for retail stores and supplies them to about 20,000 outlets, according to The New York Times.
“We believe in the power of the patty,” Hawthorne told The Times in May.
Everald Woods said he loved working under Hawthorne.
“He was a nice boss, a wonderful guy,” said Woods, an employee since 2003. “He’s the kind of guy you want to work for that long. He takes care of his employees.”
Woods said he was stunned to learn that Hawthorne had taken his life.
“I didn’t believe the news when I heard it at first,” Woods added. “I don’t know if the pressure of running the business was too much, but I’m shocked.”