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The Story Of Harold’s Chicken

Harold’s Chicken Shack (also referred to as The Fried Chicken King, Harold’s Chicken, or simply Harold’s) was originally developed by Harold Pierce, a Chicago entrepreneur, in 1950.

Harold’s Chicken is known both for its uniquely prepared chicken and for the unique experience upon entering one of the restaurants. Over 50 years later, Harold’s remains a staple in Chicago and is now expanding to other national communities.

Legend has it that, when Harold Pierce was a child, the Pierce family had the local preacher over for dinner. When the preacher ate the last piece of chicken, Harold vowed never to be without chicken again.

Harold Pierce (August 11, 1917 – March 8, 1988) was an African-American entrepreneur who founded the successful Harold’s Chicken Shack restaurant chain in Chicago. Pierce was born in Midway, Alabama, and moved to Chicago in 1943, from Freemanville, Alabama to work as a chauffeur for Jack Stern, a furniture store owner. By 1950, he was running a small restaurant with his wife, Hilda, on 39th Street. The H & H Restaurant specialized in chicken feet and dumplings. Pierce thought that he could adapt his recipe for fried chicken, and a friend, Gene Rosen, who ran a poultry shop nearby, offered him some chickens to experiment with. The resultant recipe caused Pierce to open Harold’s Chicken Shack at 47th and Greenwood in 1950.

He franchised the idea out to friends and family who opened additional Harold Chicken Shacks throughout Chicago. One of Pierce’s stipulations was that they purchase their chickens from Rosen. Otherwise, Pierce didn’t interfere with the management of the stores, which led to deviations in the techniques, flavors, and qualities of the product as well as variations in the menu from one restaurant to another.

After retiring in the early 1980’s he moved to Beaverville, Illinois, where he indulged in a passion for raising hunting dogs.

Pierce died in Kankakee, Illinois of prostate cancer in 1988. His second wife, Willa, took over running the business and began expanding it outside of Chicago. Willa died on January 21, 2003, in Beaverville.

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