Five decades 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 has been honored. The City of Chicago has 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. “My grandfather worked hard for his family and instilled to all of us to be independent, always chase your dreams. Herman Petty wanted his grandchildren, children and even great-grandchildren to achieve great things in life and wants them to never give up and always remember dreams [aren’t] impossible.”
The current owner-operator at the Stony Island franchise, Yolanda Travis, on her part, described Petty as a history maker and a risk-taker. Travis 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.
“Make no mistake — Herman Petty was a true history maker and risk-taker. When he purchased the store, it meant that African Americans could invest in and strengthen our communities, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”
And to preserve his ongoing legacy and inspire other entrepreneurs, Petty would have a room named for him at the future Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park. Joe Erlinger, the president of McDonald’s USA, said this would be done through a partnership between the Obama Foundation and McDonald’s.