Seymour KFC changes ownership after 57 years


The Pines Restaurant, which owned and operated Kentucky Fried Chicken on East Tipton Street in Seymour, has sold it to another family-owned franchisee.

This ownership change took effect Tuesday.

Started in 1963, The Pines Restaurant has owned the Seymour KFC for 57 years. The Pines started selling Colonel Harland Sanders chicken from a take-out window on the back of the restaurant.

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In 1968, the KFC brand was moved to a standalone store where Supermercado Morales stands today. The late 1970s brought growth and a need for expansion, and so in 1979, the current location was built.

Mike Hall, manager of The Pines, said the decision to sell was difficult; however, selling to a larger family company that has multiple KFC stores in the area allows employees greater opportunity to succeed and grow within the organization.

The Pines Restaurant was started in 1950 by Harold and Margaret Hall in Seymour. Throughout the years, their son, Joe Hall, grew the company to various locations around the area and also became a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee.

Mary Beth Hamilton and Mike Hall with wife Katie Hall continued the family tradition and have been running restaurants their entire lives.

Hamilton managed Kentucky Fried Chicken in Seymour, while Mike and Katie currently manage The Pines Restaurant along with the catering business and The Pines Evergreen Room in Seymour.

“I told the KFC team on Monday, and the new owners came in and introduced themselves Monday night, and we did the transfer then,” Hamilton said. “So as of now, Houston Enterprises Inc., which is Mike Houston and his sister, Sherry Houston, own the Seymour KFC.”

Hamilton said over the past year, she had solely been running the chicken franchise, but she felt like it was time to leave. The new owners, however, have told her if she ever felt like popping in and helping out in any capacity, doing what she does best, she would be welcomed.

She said she will be working some part-time hours at The Pines now, but for the most part, she is semi-retired.

“Mike Houston started in the KFC business over 30 years ago, and they are a family business, which is what attracted them to us,” Hamilton said. “They are pretty much like we are, and everything will pretty much be the same. I just won’t be there like I was.”

Hamilton said she had been tapering down her hours over the last several months, and the team at KFC had no idea until Monday night that the business was changing hands and she was leaving.

“It was a little tear-felt and they were used to me being there, but it’ll just be a change,” she said. “I was sometimes bigger than life and brought a lot of energy to the room, but they can find someone else to do that now with the good team they’ve got in place.”

She said they will still have some KFC memorabilia at The Pines, and the new owners are fine with that. The Houstons love it and they are all about that heritage and the legacy.

Mike and Sherry Houston are originally from northern Kentucky and have family that still lives there. Mike now lives in western Massachusetts, where they own five stores.

“I grew up on the farm with my grandparents in Clay City, Indiana, so we have family all over the place here,” Mike said. “Sherry and my son, Sam, both live full time in New Albany.”

Mike Houston said they had purchased 14 other KFC locations in Louisville and in Indiana awhile back and were looking for other opportunities. The one in Seymour became available and fit their criteria, so they worked with Hamilton and purchased it.

“It was important to Mary Beth that her store didn’t get sold to some large company, but instead a family company,” Mike said. “That’s what we look for, stores that are owned by people who have treated their people well, and that’s why this was a good fit for us.”

He said they hope to do as good as Hamilton did and go from there.

“We are going to do what we can to increase sales and opportunities for the folks there,” he said. “There are some really good people in place there who will have some opportunities to advance. We are a larger company but still a family-based company.”

Mike said he has seen the “Home of John Mellencamp” sign many times and thinks Seymour is a pretty cool town.

As for some history of The Pines and KFC, Colonel Sanders himself sold the franchise to Joe and Mary Lou Hall to be offered at The Pines Restaurant in 1963. The Pines was the first KFC outlet in Seymour.

It was a handshake deal and a two-page agreement. Upon the grand opening featuring Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Colonel personally taught Joe how to cook his famous recipe in the back of the kitchen at The Pines. The chicken was featured on the menu inside the restaurant.

Some may remember the drive-up window at the back of the restaurant for carryout. That’s when it was a menu restaurant, long before the buffet The Pines has become known for was added.

On a side note, the Colonel sold many of the franchises to existing restaurants and the chicken was featured on the menu. When selling the chicken overwhelmed the restaurant, many restaurant owners split the Kentucky Fried Chicken business away from the existing restaurant by opening a free-standing takeout restaurant or take homes, where there was no dining inside.

The Halls’ first take-home location opened in 1968. It was a converted small diner, which is now the Mexican grocery just east of Vick’s Liquor Store. Eleven years later, they purchased property from Don Morris Chevrolet (now Bob Poynter) and built the existing KFC restaurant as it sits today.

The Hall family decided to sell now because they are a single store operator with just the one KFC restaurant. They felt the days of the single-store operator are coming to a close because they are feeling the pressure to either acquire more outlets or sell to a larger multi-store operator.

After months of searching, the Halls found a smaller multi-unit KFC franchisee that was expanding in the area. The Houstons have an old-school history with KFC. Running a family operation, they felt the Houstons would be a great fit to take over their business.

Mike Hall said he was 5 when they had the Kentucky Fried Chicken grand opening celebration at The Pines.

He said there were cars lined up on both sides of the road, and remembers the sound of those pressure pots, the smell of the spices in the air and of course, the kind man with a cane, white suit and string tie.

Mike will be 62 this summer, but he said he remembers it well.

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