Lowell Hawthorne, founder and CEO of Caribbean restaurant chain Golden Krust, was found dead at his Bronx factory on Saturday due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 57.
Hawthorne launched the restaurant shortly after arriving from Jamaica at age 21 in 1989. He started by selling beef patties, jerk chicken and cocoa bread and expanded his business into a national franchise with 120 locations over the next 28 years.
New York Daily News reported that authorities discovered a note left by Hawthorne, but did not disclose its contents.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness shared his condolences with Hawthorne’s loved ones and employees on Twitter.
My condolences to the friends, family and employees of Jamaica-born Lowell Hawthorne, CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill.
He headed the largest Caribbean franchise chain in the US, with more than 120 stores. pic.twitter.com/PX9MpD2Mkg
— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) December 3, 2017
Queens City Councilman I. Daneek Miller also issued a statement, per CBS New York.
“We are at a loss to conceive the notion that Lowell Hawthorne, the baker’s son from the Jamaican hilltop community of Border, whose culinary gifts and can-do spirit gave birth to a surging restaurant and food retail enterprise that employs several hundred people in locations across America, is now gone to us,” Miller wrote.
“Since its creation, Golden Krust has always been more than a franchise,” he continued. “It is both an expression of cultural pride and devotion to community. I wish to extend my condolences to the Hawthorne Family for the sudden and untimely passing of their beloved Lowell. We will not soon forget the many contributions of the man who took the taste of the Caribbean to the world.”
In his 2012 book, The Baker’s Son, Hawthorne details his rise to success before and after immigrating to United States. He also appeared in a 2016 episode of “Undercover Boss.”
Hawthorne is survived by his wife and four children, who all work for the company.
At the time of his death, Golden Krust was planning on building a $37 million headquarters in Rockland County, New York. New York Daily News said that Hawthorne was deep in tax debt and facing a lawsuit from a former employee.