The Truly Surprising Story of Mary Brown’s

Mary Brown's
Did you know Mary Brown was a real woman, from Virginia?

Everyone’s had a feed of Mary Brown’s, it needs no introduction. But did you know Mary Brown was a real woman, from Virginia?

It’s true. It’s also true that Mary Brown might have  never set foot here on the island. She didn’t need to. Her husband knew that what Mary was making would have wings outside of their family’s dining room. He wanted to monetize what Mary was making.

Surprisingly, he didn’t sell Mary’s recipe to a fleet of South American Food Trucks, or even a restaurant in Virginia, as you’d expect. He sold it to 2 chaps from Newfoundland, Pat Tarrant and Cyril Fleming.

Pat and Cyril feel in love with Mary’s chicken, bought the recipe, and made their way back to Newfoundland. In 1969, the same year America launched Apollo 11 to the moon, Pat & Cyril launched their chain to immediate, ravenous success.

Except, the first store wasn’t called Mary Brown’s. It was called Golden Skillet. They renamed it to Mary Brown’s about a year later, to honour the recipe’s namesake.

So 1969 was a small step for space travel, and a giant leap forward for takeout in Newfoundland & Labrador. Within 3 years, the franchise was bursting past the bounds of the island it was founded on. Two stores opened in Ontario in 1972 (Oshawa and Mississauga).

Today there are more than 130 locations between NL and BC. Now they’re going international. In 2017, A Mary Brown’s popped up in Florida. It’s in a small town in Sarasota county called Englewood.

The franchise has enjoyed “14 years of same sales growth,” and “40% growth in the past 2 years,” meaning their growth spurt is showing no signs of slowing down, and this Newfoundland-born franchise is a serious success story.

All because two dudes loved some lady’s chicken 50 years ago when they tried it in Virginia, and had the means to build a business around it.

Mary’s recipe was inspired by Southern American recipes for deep fried chicken. So this quintessential Dirty Feed from NL is inspired not by Bay cuisine, but by legit American cuisine.

Greg Roberts is the modern day owner & CEO of Mary Brown’s. He started out as a franchisee in Springdale (who also owned a few pizza parlours, pharmacies, and gas bars at the time). In 2007, he flat out bought the Mary Brown’s Brand.

Since then, Roberts has racked up some entrepreneurial awards and accolades. His recipe for Mary Brown’s consistent growth involves one key ingredient: an annual think tank at Harvard university.

Greg is a member of the Young Presidents Organization. Each year he joins other CEOs from around the world at Harvard Business School, where he attends sessions that help form the foundation of Mary Brown’s strategy, operational tactics, and brand evolution.

But does a modern day feed of Mary Brown’s still taste like the chicken Mary Brown herself was making in the sixties in Virginia? Has capitalism cut all the same cost-saving corners that turned Colonel Saunders into a serious critic of KFC? Job to say, until someone invents time travel. A Big Mary & Taters remains irresistible regardless.

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  • I don’t know why but I have eaten your chicken sandwich twice and both times it looks good tastes good but makes me gag when I eat it, I think it is the density of the meat, and this makes me wonder where the meat is coming from or how it is raised. I will not eat another chicken burger from Mary Brown’s again. Sorry I want to support Canadian but will not put garbage in my body. Or literally can’t.

  • Chad Pelley: Just read your story of Nov. 20/18 on Mary Brown, named after Cliff Guthrie’s wife. It might also be “truly surprising” to you, to know that it all started with a letter to Colonel Sanders about ten years before Cardeen Limited, a Newfoundland Company opened it’s first( then Golden Skillet) store in the Avalon Mall. Cyril Fleming

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