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Jamaican ‘Golden Krust’ Empire Slated to Open $37 million plant in Rockland after shock of CEO’s death

Lowell Hawthorne, who built a Caribbean fast food empire with a dozen family members, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound inside his Bronx factory on Saturday, police said.

Hawthorne lived in Greenburgh, was a married father of three sons and a daughter. He was also former NYPD accountant. He became president and CEO of the Golden Krust Bakery and Grill and was featured on an episode of “Undercover Boss”.

Hawthorne, a Jamaica native arrived in the US at 21 years old. The Jamaican native started Golden Krust with a single fast-food location on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx and opened 16 more across the city before launching a franchise operation in 1996, the same year the Park avenue Factory in the Bronx was built. The empire grew to over 120 franchise stores in nine different states and over 20,000 supermarkets selling frozen version of his bestselling Jamaican Patty.

In his 2013, Hawthorne penned a memoir,  The Baker’s Son, in which he recalled his childhood in Jamaica growing up.

On Saturday his body was was discovered on the floor of his office with a single bullet wound to the head and a handgun laying nearby within the Park Avenue factory in the Bronx around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

A family member told detectives that Hawthorne, 57, admitted he had huge tax debt to some of his relatives, and was “acting funny” and “talking to himself” in the hours before his suicide, law-enforcement sources told the NY Post on Sunday.

Surveillance video shows the Jamaican fast food magnate shoot himself in the head at his office located within the Golden Krust bakery warehouse in the Bronx, according to a source, who was briefed on the NYPD investigation before to speaking with the NY Post.

Prior to the apparent self-inflicted shooting, the video surveillance footage shows Hawthorne having a conversation with two workers who left the room, both employees were “crouched down when they later returned” the sources said to the NY Post.

It was not clear if either worker saw Hawthorne kill himself but one worker could be seen making a cell phone call,  and the source said the call was to 911.

Hawthorne employed dozens of family members at the food chain he started in 1989, and the NY Post source said he left a note in which he apologized to his family.

Milton Hawthorne, 55, Hawthorne’s younger brother, met cops who arrived at the Golden Krust plant around 5:15 p.m. in response to a 911 call about an emotionally disturbed person armed with a gun, sources said.

While it is indicted by evidence that Hawthorne took his own life,  police continue to investigate the circumstances that led up to the food magnate Lowell Hawthorne’s final act.

With his family’s assistance, Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx after arriving from Jamaica at the age of 21 with a secret recipe for beef patties, a spicy ground beef wrapped in flaky golden brown dough, a popular staple of the Jamaican island.

Over the next 28 years, Golden Krust opened some 120 franchises across the U.S., selling jerk chicken and beef patties with the slogan, “We take the taste of the Caribbean to the world.”

GOLDEN KRUST HEADQUARTERS MOVING TO ORANGETOWN

In 2016, Golden Krust announced plans to place its nationwide operations on a 17-acre plot on Route 303 in Orangetown.

The Orangetown location is slated to build a $37 million bakery, distribution center and corporate facility on the Route 303 property, according to the documents filed with the Rockland Industrial Development.

The bakery and distribution plant would replace the Claremont Bronx location, built in 1996, as the epicenter of Golden Krust food production.  Golden Krust is a Shoprite frozen food best seller, a favorite in Costcos on the West Coast, and the 120 storefront franchise locations are placed in nine states so far.

Golden Krust sells its frozen beef patties in more than 20,000 supermarkets, in addition the company has large contracts with the city school system, state penal system and US military, according to a news release issued last year.

Golden Krust has the support of the Rockland Industrial Development Agency, which negotiated more than $1.2 million in tax incentives to bring Golden Krust to Rockland.

The plan to build $37 million headquarters, includes a consolidation of the company’s legal and corporate offices in a new 100,000-square-foot building that would also have a baking facility to produce Golden Krust patties, breads and pastries.

In August, Hawthorne was served with a proposed class-action suit alleging he did not pay overtime as many as 100+ workers at the Golden Crust plant.

The law suit, fairly common in the food-service industry, is pending in Manhattan federal court.

Mourners came to pay their final respects at Hawthorne’s home in Elmsford.  Hawthorne’s son Omar, Golden Krust’s director of franchise and community development, sent out an email stating: “We are still grieving, and are not conducting any interviews at this time.”

During a short news conference at the Golden Krust bakery, company spokesman and Hawthorne’s nephew Steven Clarke said the CEO’s widow Lorna Hawthorne was making funeral arrangements and it was not certain if there would be a public memorial service.

The prime minster of Jamaica tweeted his condolences.

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