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First McDonald’s in Clay County celebrates 50th Anniversary

Posted 3/28/24

ORANGE PARK – McDonald’s has brandished a few slogans since it was founded in 1940. “I’m loving it.” “Over 99 billion served.” The one that seems especially fitting for the McDonald’s …

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First McDonald’s in Clay County celebrates 50th Anniversary


Posted

ORANGE PARK – McDonald’s has brandished a few slogans since it was founded in 1940. “I’m loving it.” “Over 99 billion served.”

The one that seems especially fitting for the McDonald’s on 428 Park Ave. in Orange Park is the franchise’s first – “Look for the Golden Arches.”

Partly because that location was the first McDonald’s in Clay County. Partly because Karen King, the franchise owner, insisted that the store keep its 1950s retro look when it was rebuilt in 2002.

King’s McDonald’s continues to proudly display the iconic gold arches, and for a half-century, the restaurant has served up American classics – burgers, fries, nuggets, soft drinks and shakes.

McDonald’s is one of the first things cars see traveling south on U.S. Highway 17 from Duval to Clay County. The restaurant had overlooked the county corridor since U.S. 17 was a single-lane road, when rickety wooden fences surrounded the dog track, and when dog races were still legal.

“The McDonald’s has been at the gateway between Clay County and Jacksonville,” Jon Cantrell, President of Chamber of Commerce, said.

“I’ve known Karen for 25 years. We both serve on the Salvation Army board together. She’s always been a giver, helping nonprofits and charities,” Cantrell said.

King was greeted by a hug from an employee when she walked into the restaurant for its 50th-anniversary ribbon-cutting celebration. In the spirit of 50 years in the business and 50s aesthetics, hamburgers and fries were sold for 50 cents.

King gave a heartfelt, humble speech before the ribbon was cut. She thanked God, her business partners, and her loyal customers for making the success possible.

“It isn’t just about me. In this case, it really isn’t about me,” King said

“I’ve been humbled so many times. I had my whole future invested. And it was just me when my late husband, my son’s father, was killed on the job. I could’ve lived in my car and would’ve been happy to do that. Because I wanted to wallow and do nothing anyway.”

King said her obligation and love for her son brought her out of such grief. She wanted to continue managing the restaurant so her son could have a future.

“I mean, parenting is a lot harder,” she joked.

“It just kind of happened. McDonald’s is not the same as owning your own business. Not at all. It’s their menu, their products, their portion, their operation. You can’t say, ‘I think hotdogs might be nice to add…’ No. And I do think that. I love hotdogs,” she said.

King inspires business and franchise owners and reminds them that McDonald’s corporation has only achieved its ubiquitous success, becoming the “golden” standard of the contemporary restaurant industry, thanks to leaders like King, who worked hard on behalf of their families.

Because of leaders like King, McDonald’s has been able to serve 99 billion.