Daughter of Harold’s Chicken founder fights to preserve legacy
By MARY MITCHELL April 16, 2014 7:52PM
Vincent Sherrod and Kristen Pierce-Sherrod, Harold’s CEO and the daughter of the Harold Pierce, at Harold's Chicken, 2341 W. 95th on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. | Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: May 19, 2014 2:03PM
The daughter of the founder of Harold’s Chicken Shack is asking for the city’s help in her fight to stop people from ripping off the iconic brand.
Kristen Pierce-Sherrod and her husband, Vincent Sherrod, say they are the legal owners of the Harold’s Chicken name, but a half-dozen “rogue” stores have popped up in recent years.
“We want to take back control over what’s rightfully ours, which is the name,” she said.
More illegal stores may exist, but Pierce-Sherrod said she relies on word-of-mouth, Facebook and disgruntled customers to tip her off.
The complaint came to light this week when a property owner complained that a Harold’s Chicken was not able to get a business license to move into the 4500 block of South Indiana because Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) rezoned the address from mixed-use to residential.
That prospective owner, however, claimed to have rights to open an eatery.
“Actually the alderman did us a favor when they denied the business license. We didn’t know anything about it,” Pierce-Sherrod said.
Harold Pierce migrated from Alabama and opened his first chicken shack in 1950 near 45th and Greenwood.
The business was basically family-owned, and has remained that way for 65 years.
Four of Pierce-Sherrod’s children work in the corporate-owned Harold’s located at 2341 W. 95th in the Beverly neighborhood, she said.
“With my dad, it was just a basic license agreement that allowed a person to use his name, his recipe and his logo,” Pierce-Sherrod said.
“As time went on, Harold grew into 60-70 locations, but now we have dwindled down to about 42.”
Pierce-Sherrod said bogus Harold’s restaurants are operating throughout the South Side.
“Now, we are trying to protect the name and the brand by franchising. When you see the correct logo — which is the man chasing the chicken — that’s authentic,” said Pierce-Sherrod, displaying the familiar red, white and green bag.
The bogus pop-up Harold’s franchisees started showing up five years ago, she said.
“The stores that have opened up in the past couple of years, those are not legitimate stores. We are not opening up any stores right now,” she said.
But shutting down unsanctioned restaurants has proved to be a challenge, Vincent Sherrod said.
“We need to find a way to stop something like that before it happens because afterwards it’s a bigger fight,” he said.
His wife added: “We want the aldermen to get involved because Harold’s is an icon of Chicago. For an African-American business to be here for this long, it had to stand for something.”
She said she is hoping that the 95th Street location becomes the franchise model.
“It’s not just about making money for us, it’s about setting an example and being positive to the neighborhood. We’re trying to eliminate the shacks. We are trying to make it something the community can be proud of,” she said.
Dowell has agreed to arrange a meeting between the Sherrods and the City Council’s Black Caucus because a lot of Harold’s Chicken Shacks are in the black community.
The alderman also plans to reach out to the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection department and her state representatives.
“This is crazy. If something happens in a store or the food is bad, it’s associated with her father’s good name. I would be concerned,” Dowell said.
“I don’t know what the city’s role could be, but they could check and see that the franchise agreement is a real agreement.”
In the meantime, Pierce-Sherrod is looking forward to the opening of a corporate Harold’s Chicken in Kankakee.
“We want to supersede the stores that are out here that are not Harold’s,” she said.
“Everybody is trying to use his name. But they don’t love Harold’s. I still have the respect that my dad taught me for this business,” Pierce-Sherrod said.