By Ryan Velez
The NY Daily News reports a major loss for the Black business community as Lowell Hawthorne, founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, killed himself inside his Bronx factory on Saturday, according to police sources. Some may remember Hawthorne from an appearance he made on the Undercover Boss television show. He apparently shot himself inside the Park Ave. building near E. 173rd St. in Claremont about 5:30 p.m., sources said.
Only hours later, current and former employees stood outside the factory in shock, some of them even crying over the loss of their boss. “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, and went on to build an empire of Jamaican-style beef patties with 120 restaurants across nine states. Pat Russo worked with Hawthorne since the 90’s and was shocked that the businessman would take his own life.
“It doesn’t make any sense. He had everything to live for,” said Russo, who is the president of Chef’s Choice food company. “He was a brilliant business guy. The perfect American success story.” Even Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, sent his condolences via tweet.
Longtime employee Everald Woods spoke glowingly of 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 for that long. He takes care of his employees.” Family friend Wayne Muschamb said what a loss this was not only for the company, but for the Jamaican community. “Look how far he reached. He’s known from here to Jamaica,” Muschamb said. “I’m kind of lost for words, man. This has got me shocked.”
According to the company website, Golden Krust became the first Caribbean-owned business in the U.S. to be granted a franchise license, according to its website. The company produces more than 50 million patties a year that are sold in retail stores. Hawthorne also published a memoir, The Baker’s Son, in 2012. “It’s a very humbling experience to know that the concept that began in Jamaica with our parents was able to come here,” Hawthorne told the Daily News at the time.