You know Colonel Sanders. Everyone knows the Colonel. Granted, a lot of people don’t know he was a living breathing person, as opposed to just a mascot for a fast food chain, but the Colonel is as iconic as Ronald McDonald and the Michelin Man. However, you probably didn’t know that the Colonel once lived in Mississauga!
For a brief history lesson, Harland Sanders was born in 1890 in Indiana. Growing up, the man had a career as diverse as you will ever find; having been a county lawyer, ferry operator, insurance agent, gas station attendance, and, I learned this after writing that intro, he even acted as the Michelin Man. No joke.
His real success came when he opened a restaurant that specialised in fried chicken. The restaurant was a decent success until an interstate was built and travellers now bypassed him altogether. So the Colonel took his secret recipe on the road and started selling it to restaurants, who would add the fried chicken to the menu. He took care in who he sold the recipe to, ensuring he liked the people and approved of their business methods, going as far as to call the business partners his “family”.
Kentucky Fried Chicken was being sold all over the country in restaurants, and eventually made its way north of the border. Scott’s Chicken Villa at Lawrence and Victoria Park was the first location to offer the fried chicken as take-out only, and their sales skyrocketed. In just a few years Scott’s operated 20 stores across the GTA. Unsurprisingly, so much growth across North America was too much for one man, leading to Sanders selling the company in 1964 for a now paltry $2 million.
Interestingly, Sanders decided to retain the rights to KFC in Canada, but profits went to the Harland Sanders Charitable Foundation of Canada – an organisation that is still running today and helping raise funds for sick kids hospitals and such. It was around this time that Sanders purchased a home at 1337 Melton Drive, just north of Dixie Outlet Mall – which, of course, didn’t exist at the time.
Of course, Sanders was still a busy man, so he didn’t live in Mississauga all the time. In fact it was said he was travelling over 300,000 miles per year, which is further away than the moon to Earth! When he was in Mississauga however, Sanders was a huge hit. People in the community loved seeing the iconic figure and it was actually in Toronto where he began wearing his trademark white suit and facial hair.
As he grew older and KFC took on a life without him, Sanders often criticised the quality of the product, which he thought was dwindling. He particularly disliked the gravy, calling it “sludge”, and was known to say so publicly. However he did state in his biography that he felt the Canadian KFC franchises maintained a better standard than those in the United States.
Sanders jumped between his residence in Kentucky and Mississauga right up until his death in 1980. He would often be found at the KFC on Tomken road and watch the staff work. He spoke highly of Mississauga and Toronto in his decade here, and it’s pretty damn cool that we can say our city played home to such a legendary figure. Now, who’s hungry?