Fifty years ago, Herman Petty became the first Black person to open a McDonald’s franchise in Chicago. He opened the restaurant in 1968 at 6560 S. Stony Island Ave during the civil rights movement.
His opening of a McDonald’s made it easier for future African Americans to become owner-operators and franchisees. It also led to the formation of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association (BMOA).
Petty died in 2009 and more than a decade after his demise, he was honored. The City of Chicago recently named a street, where he opened his restaurant, after him. A section of Marquette Road between Stony Island Avenue and Dorchester Avenue is now called the “Herman Petty Way.”
“He inspired others to believe in themselves, to know that nothing is unattainable if you put in the work and put your mind to it,” one of Petty’s granddaughters, Latrice Orr, told BlockClubChicago.
Today, Petty’s McDonald’s is owned and operated by Yolanda Travis. She assumed ownership of the location at a time it was in desperate need of a remodel. Travis, who described Petty as a history-maker and a risk-taker, bought Petty’s McDonald’s location in 2007 and said the idea to rename the street after Petty was hers. The idea then gained the support of local leaders.
“It was my idea because you have few or no Black museums or monuments or [any landmarks on the South Side of Chicago,” Travis said, according to BlockClubChicago.
The Chicago native operated four McDonald’s before acquiring Petty’s, on 65th Street and Stony Island Avenue on the city’s South Side. After a massive renovation, it opened again to the general public.
Travis is a graduate of McDonald’s Hamburger University. In the past, she served in the Illinois Air National Guard. Before that, she served in the Department of Defense and started using her spare time to learn how to fly airplanes.
“I’ve always wanted to have a business of my own, and in 1984, I had looked into McDonald’s, but at that time, I didn’t have the capital to purchase [one],” Travis told the Free Library. “I waited some years later and saved up my money.”
Explaining how she became a franchise owner, Travis said she worked with her grandfather who owned a plumbing business. After Girl Scouts, she was out there selling cookies and by 1984, she saw McDonald’s popping up all over the place. That is when she decided that she wanted to own a piece of McDonald’s.