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S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A Dies

S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A Dies



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S. Truett Cathy, known as the billionaire owner and founder of Chick-fil-A, died early this morning at the age of 93 in his home, surrounded by family members.

Cathy — the founding father of what soon became one of the largest chain chicken restaurants in America — was born into poverty, and got his start in the restaurant business by opening a small, post-war diner in the suburbs of Atlanta. By the time the 1960s rolled around, the restaurant was re-branded and franchised as a Southern chicken restaurant known as Chick-fil-A, selling its trademark chicken sandwich. Now, Chick-fil-A has 1,800 restaurant locations nationwide, and reports more than $5 billion in profits annually.

Cathy, unlike many other chain restaurant founders, was involved in his restaurants’ operations well into his 80s, and refused to retire until the very end.

"There's really no secret for success," he said after his memoir was published in 2007. "I hope it will open eyes for people. They don't have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me."

But Cathy’s business success was not without controversy. Chick-fil-A, as well as its owner, was known for right-wing political leanings. In 2012, Cathy’s son, Dan, who is currently the chain’s president, said that they were “guilty as charged for supporting the biblical definition of family.” This led to liberal and gay rights groups boycotting the restaurant, and companies like Jim Henson’s pulling their happy meal toys from Chick-fil-A.

Cathy is survived by his wife, Jeannette, three children, 19 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


The Story of S. Truett Cathy

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Samuel Truett Cathy isn't just another American success story. He's been taking America's restaurant scene by storm since World War II, transforming his Chick-fil-A business from a restaurant so small that he initially called it the Dwarf Grill into a US$1.6 billion empire.


Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy dies at 93

S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew unwanted attention on gay marriage in recent years because of his family’s conservative views, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.

Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin told the Associated Press that Cathy died at home surrounded by members of his family. The company said in a statement that preliminary plans are for a public funeral service at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Jonesboro in Jonesboro, Ga.

Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, the chain’s boneless chicken sandwich, which he is credited with inventing, would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation’s capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday -- none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family a loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy’s son denounced gay marriage.

Cathy’s son, Dan, who is currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay-rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy’s restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it was not welcome in those cities.

The controversy later subsided.

The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy’s $6-billion fortune as the founder of Chick-fil-A put him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company has listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business in 1946 by opening, with his brother, an Atlanta diner called the Dwarf Grill, which was named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

He attributed his hardworking nature -- even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter -- to growing up poor.

“I’ve experienced poverty and plenty, and there’s a lesson to be learned when you’re brought up in poverty,” he said in 2007. “I had to create some good work habits and attitude.”

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain’s operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately owned chain in the future but that the company must never go public.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?” Cathy said in a 2007 interview. “I can hardly wait to get here.”

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain’s trademark chicken sandwich, when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer’s needs. Cathy took those pieces and cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.

Cathy also was known for his efforts to help youth. In 1984, he created the WinShape Foundation to help “shape winners” through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write “I will not vandalize other people’s property” 1,000 times.

He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he didn’t want to have them prosecuted and left with a criminal record.

His 2007 book “How Did You Do It, Truett?” outlined a strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.

“There’s really no secret for success,” he said then. “I hope it will open eyes for people. They don’t have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me.”

Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy sons Dan T. and Don “Bubba” Cathy daughter Trudy Cathy White 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement.

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Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy has died

S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, poses in a replica of "The Dwarf Grill," the original restaurant he started in Atlanta in 1946 in this 2001 photo. A spokesman said Cathy, who started the postwar diner in Atlanta that grew into the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, died early Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo: Ric Feld , AP )

Atlanta — Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy died early Monday at 93. The billionaire rose from poverty, building a privately held restaurant chain that famously closes every Sunday but drew unwanted attention for the Cathy family’s opposition to gay marriage.

Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, the chain’s boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation’s capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday. None of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family a loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy’s son defended the company’s donations to groups campaigning against gay marriage.

Cathy’s son, Dan, currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy’s restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

The controversy later subsided.

The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy’s $6 billion fortune put him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business by opening with his brother in 1946 an Atlanta diner called The Dwarf Grill, named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

He attributed his hardworking nature — even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter — to growing up poor.

“I’ve experienced poverty and plenty and there’s a lesson to be learned when you’re brought up in poverty,” he said in 2007. “I had to create some good work habits and attitude.”

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain’s operations.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?” Cathy said in a 2007 interview. “I can hardly wait to get here.” He set up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately-owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain’s trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer’s needs. Cathy cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.

“He often talked about how he never planned for Chick-Fil-A to be the size that it is today. For Truett, it was so much more than building a national chain,” Chick-Fil-A Senior Vice President of Operations Tim Tassopoulos said Monday. “It was also a place where Truett could invest in people, giving them a first job, a place to learn about hard work and a place for many to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.”

In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help “shape winners” through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write “I will not vandalize other people’s property” 1,000 times.

He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he didn’t want to have them prosecuted and left with a criminal record. Cathy also spent 50 years teaching Sunday school to 13-year-old boys.

His 2007 book “How Did You Do It, Truett?” outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.

“There’s really no secret for success,” he said then. “I hope it will open eyes for people. They don’t have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me.”

Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy sons Dan T. and Don “Bubba” Cathy daughter Trudy Cathy White 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Meet the Cathys, heirs to the Chick-fil-A empire, who have a fortune of more than $11 billion and are one of America's wealthiest family ɽynasties'

When it comes to the Cathy family's reported $11 billion fortune, it's all about the fried chicken. That's because the Cathys are the family behind the Chick-fil-A empire.

S. Truett Cathy officially founded the popular fast-food chain in the 1960s, laying the roots for what is today America's 15th-richest family wealth "dynasty," according to the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies' "Billionaire Bonanza" report.

Since then, the family-owned business has remained in the hands of second- and third-generation family members. Truett's sons, Dan Cathy and Don "Bubba" Cathy, run the company as CEO and executive vice president, respectively — they each have a reported net worth of $5.5 billion, according to the Forbes 400.

Born and raised in the south, the Cathy family has been dedicated to continuing Truett's legacy, growing Chick-fil-A across the US. Chick-fil-A has been celebrated for its company culture, customer service, and quality food, but it has also received backlash over anti-same-sex marriage issues that align with the Cathys' Christian beliefs.


S Truett Cathy, founder of restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, dies aged 93

S Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew attention on gay marriage because of his family's conservative views, has died at the age of 93.

Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin said Cathy died at home surrounded by members of his family. Funeral plans had not yet been finalised, he said.

Cathy opened his first diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Atlanta. Over the ensuing decades the chain's boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets. By early 2013, the company said on its website, annual sales topped $5bn (£3bn) as the chain offered up a taste of the south that went beyond chicken to include such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday – none of its hundreds of restaurants is open on that day to allow employees a day of rest – and its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy's son denounced gay marriage.

Cathy's son, Dan, who is chairman and president of the chain, told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family", prompting gay rights groups to call for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy's restaurants. The Jim Henson Company pulled its Muppet toys from children's meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it was not welcome there.

Cathy began his career in the restaurant business in 1946 by opening an Atlanta diner with his brother called The Dwarf Grill, which was named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain's trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer's needs. Cathy took those pieces and cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain's operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

The company listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.


S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A Dies - Recipes

S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew unwanted attention on gay marriage in recent years because of his family's conservative views, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.

Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin told The Associated Press that Cathy died at home surrounded by members of his family. The company said in a statement that preliminary plans are for a public funeral service at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Jonesboro in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, the chain's boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation's capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday--none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy's son denounced gay marriage.

Cathy's son, Dan, who is currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy's restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids' meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

The controversy later subsided.

The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy's $6 billion fortune as the founder of Chick-fil-A puts him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company has listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business by opening with his brother in 1946 an Atlanta diner called The Dwarf Grill, which was named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

He has attributed his hardworking nature--even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter--to growing up poor.

"I've experienced poverty and plenty and there's a lesson to be learned when you're brought up in poverty," he said in 2007. "I had to create some good work habits and attitude."

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain's operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately-owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

"Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?" Cathy said in a 2007 interview. "I can hardly wait to get here."

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain's trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer's needs. Cathy took those pieces and cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-Arestaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.

Cathy also was known for his efforts to help youth. In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help "shape winners" through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write "I will not vandalize other people's property" 1,000 times.

He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he didn't want to have them prosecuted and left with a criminal record.

As the author of several books, his 2007 book "How Did You Do It, Truett?" outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.

"There's really no secret for success," he said then. "I hope it will open eyes for people. They don't have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me."

Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy sons Dan T. and Don "Bubba" Cathy daughter Trudy Cathy White 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement.


UPDATE 2-Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy dead at 93

ATLANTA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain known for its chicken sandwiches as well as for its president’s public opposition to gay marriage, died on Monday at age 93, the company said.

Cathy, the billionaire chairman emeritus of the privately held Atlanta-based company known for requiring the chain’s restaurants to close on Sundays in keeping with its Christian principles, died peacefully at his home in Clayton County, Georgia, a company spokeswoman said.

“Our city is saddened by the loss of Truett Cathy,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on Twitter. “His legacy will live on through his family and good works.”

Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967 in his native Georgia, where he is credited with creating the recipe for the company’s signature boneless chicken sandwich and helping to pioneer the idea of putting restaurants in shopping malls.

A devout Southern Baptist, he earned both admiration and disdain for his unapologetic mix of religion and business as he built a family-owned empire that now includes more than 1,800 locations in 40 states and Washington, D.C.

Chick-fil-A netted $5 billion in sales in 2013, according to the company.

“People appreciate you being consistent with your faith,” he once told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a silent witness to the Lord when people go into shopping malls, and everyone is bustling, and you see that Chick-fil-A is closed.”

The chain made headlines in 2012 when president Dan Cathy - the founder’s son - told an online religious newspaper that he supported “the biblical definition of the family unit” and that supporters of gay marriage were “arrogant.”

His statements ignited a cultural firestorm, triggering protests that included “kiss-ins” by same-sex couples outside some stores and criticism from the mayors of Chicago and Boston.

Social conservatives and fans of the chain’s chicken and waffle fries countered with their own push to get people to eat at Chick-fil-A in a sign of support for Dan Cathy’s stance and his right to voice it.

Chick-fil-A issued a statement as it sought to move past the controversy, saying its culture was “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, creed, race, sexual orientation or gender.”

Truett Cathy was also known for his philanthropy, which focused largely on programs for foster children and other youth.

His survivors include his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy, three children, 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

A public funeral service will be held at a church in Jonesboro, Georgia, on Wednesday, the company said. (Writing by Colleen Jenkins and Chris Michaud Editing by Will Dunham and Eric Walsh)


Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy has died

ATLANTA, GA -- S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew unwanted attention on gay marriage in recent years because of his family's conservative views, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.

Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin told The Associated Press that Cathy died at home surrounded by members of his family. Funeral plans had not yet been finalized, he said.

Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, the chain's boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation's capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday - none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy's son denounced gay marriage.

Cathy's son, Dan, who is currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy's restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids' meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

The controversy later subsided.

The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy's $6 billion fortune as the founder of Chick-fil-A puts him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company has listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business by opening with his brother in 1946 an Atlanta diner called The Dwarf Grill, which was named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

He has attributed his hardworking nature - even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter - to growing up poor.

"I've experienced poverty and plenty and there's a lesson to be learned when you're brought up in poverty," he said in 2007. "I had to create some good work habits and attitude."

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain's operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately-owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

"Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?" Cathy said in a 2007 interview. "I can hardly wait to get here."

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain's trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer's needs. Cathy took those pieces and cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.

Cathy also was known for his efforts to help youth. In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help "shape winners" through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write "I will not vandalize other people's property" 1,000 times.

He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he didn't want to have them prosecuted and left with a criminal record.

As the author of several books, his 2007 book "How Did You Do It, Truett?" outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.

"There's really no secret for success," he said then. "I hope it will open eyes for people. They don't have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me."


Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, dies at 93

S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew unwanted attention on gay marriage in recent years because of his family's conservative views, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.

S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain who lived part-time in New Smyrna Beach, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.
Cathy, known for his conservative views and closing his restaurants on Sundays, died at his Atlanta home surrounded by members of his family, said Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin.
Cathy’s impact on Volusia County went beyond the seven Chick-fil-A restaurants located within its borders. He was a major landowner, owning more than 80 pieces of residential property through his trust, according to county property records.
Vance Smith, franchise owner/operator of the Chick-fil-A in Edgewater, was managing the Winn-Dixie supermarket on State Road 44 in New Smyrna Beach when he first met Cathy in the 1990s. Smith got to know Cathy, a regular customer, and eventually was offered the opportunity to open the Edgewater restaurant in 2003.
�sides the birth of my children and my marriage to my wife, Truett impacted me most greatly,” Smith, a New Smyrna Beach resident, said.
Smith’s three children — two daughters, ages 24 and 21, and son, age 18 — have all worked for his Chick-fil-A store, and his wife, Joliene, serves as its marketing director.
“(Cathy) changed my life,” Smith, 53, said. “He changed my children’s life. He probably impacted my grandchildren’s life.”
The Edgewater restaurant employs about 40, Smith said.
Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over the ensuing decades, the chain’s boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A’s expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation’s capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.
Chick-fil-A has restaurants in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Orange City and Edgewater. The company has plans to open a restaurant in Palm Coast in early 2015, Baldwin said.
Chick-fil-A entered the local market in 1974, when it opened its store in Volusia Mall.
Cathy began buying property in the county shortly after the mall store opened.
“He fell in love with New Smyrna Beach,” Smith said of Cathy.
Bill Roe, founder and president of Ocean Properties & Management Inc. in New Smyrna Beach, said he began doing business with Cathy in Volusia County in the 1980s. Roe’s company manages about 50 of Cathy’s vacation properties in the area.
“He was what I call a legend,” Roe said of Cathy.
Cathy maintained vacation properties in southeast Volusia County for foster children to use.
His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write “I will not vandalize other people’s property” 1,000 times.
Cathy told The News-Journal at the time that he didn’t want to have them prosecuted and left with a criminal record.
Cathy also operated Marko’s Chick-fil-A Heritage Inn in Port Orange from 2000 to 2005. Marko’s started as a diner in the 1950s. Cathy said at the time that it was one of his favorite local places to eat and he wanted to preserve it for the community. He bought the eatery after it closed in 1999, renovated it and reopened it as a buffet that also had a regular menu and fast-food menu.
Under the religiously conservative Cathy, Chick-fil-A gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday — none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors did in seven.
Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family a loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy’s son denounced gay marriage.
Cathy’s son, Dan, who is currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy’s restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it was not welcome there.
The controversy later subsided.
New Smyrna Beach resident Ellen Florentz, 71, said she admires Cathy’s values. Florentz made a special trip to the Edgewater Chick-fil-A for lunch on Monday.
“I’m here because (Cathy) passed away,” Florentz said after she finished her meal. “He’s in heaven, I think. It’s wonderful that they close on Sunday, and I think more businesses need to do that.”
Florentz added that she made a point to eat at Chick-fil-A during the boycott in 2012.
The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy’s $6 billion fortune as the founder of Chick-fil-A puts him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company has listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.
Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business by opening with his brother in 1946 an Atlanta diner called The Dwarf Grill, which was named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.
He has attributed his hardworking nature — even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter — to growing up poor.
“I’ve experienced poverty and plenty and there’s a lesson to be learned when you’re brought up in poverty,” he said in 2007. “I had to create some good work habits and attitude.”
Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain’s operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately-owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.
“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?” Cathy said in a 2007 interview. “I can hardly wait to get here.”
Smith said Cathy would occasionally drop by the Edgewater store when he was in town — usually in the last week of the month.
“They were just friendly visits,” Smith said. “He was very recognizable, and customers wanted to have their picture taken with him. He loved talking to customers.”
An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain’s trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer’s needs. Cathy took those pieces and cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.
The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.
Cathy also was known for his efforts to help youth. In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help “shape winners” through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.
As the author of several books, his 2007 book “How Did You Do It, Truett?” outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.
“There’s really no secret for success,” he said then. “I hope it will open eyes for people. They don’t have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me.”
Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy sons Dan T. and Don 𠇋ubba” Cathy daughter Trudy Cathy White 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Watch the video: Chick-Fil-A Founder S. Truett Cathy appears on The 700 Club (August 2022).