KFC closure marks end of era
Iron River’s KFC family gathered recently in their former restaurant. Pictured, from left, are Kerry Rivard, Rene Carlson, Dianne Jacob, Ron Carlson and Richelle Jochem.
IRON RIVER — Ron and Rene Carlson, the former owners of KFC in Iron River, did not ease into retirement. Instead, their last weeks of operating a franchise that had been in Rene’s family for nearly six decades were busier than ever.
As public safety restrictions put in place in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down in-house dining, patrons flocked to take-out and drive-through. KFC presented one of the few local options for a quick meal that could serve an entire family. Gone were the days of finger food for dine-in, as customers opted instead for one, two and even three buckets of chicken - all of which was deboned and breaded in-house
“People would drive up and start ordering, and then they’d keep ordering and keep ordering and keep ordering and they wouldn’t stop,” said Rene from a corner booth in the now-shuttered restaurant, as she grabbed her phone to pull up a picture of a line of 10 or so cars extending beyond the alley and into the next street over.
Ron and Rene slowed the order process down to prevent a bottleneck at pick-up and said patrons were patient as the couple and their staff navigated such an influx of drive-through business.
“Nobody complained that they had to wait,” Rene said. “People knew it was moving, and we ended up with a good system in the end.”
Sometime in early May, Ron and Rene started informing their regular customers of their retirement and the restaurant’s impending closure.
“A lot of them were sad, even now when we see them today,” said Ron. “A lot of customers have been with us, you know, forever.”
“We had wonderful customers all throughout the years.” Rene added. “I am definitely going to miss them; I already do. I see them downtown and I say, ‘Do you miss your Chicken Littles?’”