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KFC kicks the bucket
Franchise goes through 5,220 pieces of chicken in 36 hours before closing its doors, family prepares to open burger restaurant

Karen K. Ho
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the end, KFC didn't have to stay open until midnight after all.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sasha Jason stands behind the counter of her family's KFC restaurant. The franchise saw large crowds and sold out of their signature fried chicken during their last weekend of operation. - Karen K. Ho/NNSL photo

NNSL photo/graphic

Three generations of the Jason family stand in front of their restaurant on 48 Street circa 1989 or 1990. Gabi, left, Jarvis, Doris, Len, and children Whitney, Sasha and Matthew Jason. The franchise closed for good this past weekend after 48 years. - photo courtesy of the Jason family

After 48 years of operating in Yellowknife, the fried chicken restaurant operated by the Jason family simply ran out of its signature item more than 24 hours before its expected closing time.

"The last few days were insane," said Sasha Jason, a member of the third-generation of the family.

Store employee Nova Ramos said the last pieces of drumsticks and thighs were sold around 6 p.m. on Saturday. Large orders were the norm, rather than the exception.

"The first customer on Saturday morning ordered four 18-piece buckets," she said. "He waited 20 minutes outside and said he was going to freeze it for the future."

The store's delivery on Friday morning contained 29 cases of chicken, and each case holding 10 bags that each contained 18 pieces, that's 5,220 pieces of the popular food in total. All of it was gone in less than 36 hours.

Everything else, including Twister wraps, popcorn chicken, even slices of cake, was gone by early evening on Sunday.

Delivery driver Bernie Bennett said demand was so high that customers were willing to wait up to two hours on Friday night for their orders.

In fact, Bennett didn't work Saturday and Sunday at all, as delivery and pickups were halted to try and ensure sufficient inventory for the rest of the weekend.

Still, Sasha Jason said it was the right time for her family to get out of the franchise.

The current owner of the Merle Norman Cosmetics and Spa at the Centre Square Mall said she ran the KFC store for years after university, but her heart was no longer in it.

"It is a lot of work," she said. "A lot of people think it's really easy but there's really long days, there's high turnover of staff, many vacations and birthdays and school events that my parents weren't able to come to because they were always working at the store."

Jason said that while her mother Gabi at one point wanted to put it up for sale, her sister Whitney wanted to give the business a try. That didn't work out either.

"It just came down to, there was none of us that were super passionate about it," she said.

Sasha said stories about the restaurant catering orders for meetings, graduations, funerals and weddings were true, with some requests for places like the mines going as high as 1,000 or even 1,500 pieces.

Sasha said she wasn't super surprised when the head office stopped deliveries up North to smaller communities.

"Where we are, it's different, it is a very isolated place, so there were allowances made for a really long time," she said.

While the business was definitely profitable, Sasha said there was a lot of time and attention put in by everyone in her family.

The Jason family is now switching their sights to The Lenny Burger, a restaurant named after their father that used to be where the Coldwell Banker office now sits.

"My brother is super, super passionate about it," Sasha said. "And I'm excited about products that we'll offer there because it's stuff we used to do."

Items such as the burgers, the onion nuggets and the corn fritters, which Sasha said many customers associated with the classic KFC days, will return to Yellowknife with the new restaurant.

Sasha said being entrepreneurs about food was pretty much ingrained into the family.

Sasha's brother Matthew will be "the face" and manager of the new restaurant which opens around Christmas, while Sasha will handle operations and training. Luckily for them, many of the staff from the KFC are planning to make the switch over to the new venture, including store manager Belen Baltazar.

During a staff party at Gabi's house in Old Town, Baltazar said her position with the Jason's didn't feel like work.

"I really enjoy it," she said. "It's a career. The owners are really appreciative and it's why even in the new restaurant I will stay with them."

Even with news of a new fried chicken chain coming to town - Mary Brown's - Sasha will still love the KFC franchise, which she still ordered while on vacation with friends and family while travelling down south.

"Oh my god I love it so much," she said with a massive grin.

"My friends always thought I was crazy but I just had to have it."

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