McDonald's franchise owner dies

May 15, 2014 

McDonald’s was selling hamburgers for 15 cents and had its trademark golden arches when the late Greg Adams came to town in 1973. Today this store at 2541 W. Kennewick Ave. has been extensively remodeled and is a Casa Mia restaurant.

PHOTO COURTESY EAST BENTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The man who built an empire of McDonald’s hamburger chains in the Mid-Columbia and volunteered as a Meals on Wheels driver died Wednesday in Kennewick. Greg Adams was 73.

Adams moved his family to Portland in 1964 after he and his then wife Caroline lost their 1-month-old twin sons in a flash flood in his hometown of Omaha, Neb.

“We lost our boys and nearly everything else,” he told the Herald in 1980. So he took a job with the railroad based in Portland.

He also took a part-time job at McDonald’s so he could buy the family a TV set.

“I remember that I wanted to buy a color television and we just didn’t have the money,” he once told the Herald. “I decided to get a second job to buy that TV and went to work for McDonald’s for $1.20 an hour.”

The experience changed the course of his life.

“You can’t get a better, cheaper hamburger than McDonald’s and people seem to know it,” he said.

Adams loved working at McDonald’s and he quit the railroad, took a $200 a month cut in pay and went to work full time for the hamburger chain.

Nine years after the first Kennewick McDonald’s opened in 1964, Adams moved his wife and six kids to town and took over the operation, intent on building a customer base by handing out coupons and sponsoring charitable causes as well as youth baseball teams.

He was honored in 1984 as Tri-Citian of the Year. The Herald characterized him in an editorial at the time as an inspiration because of his work ethic.

“He is not what sometimes is characterized as a high-profile community leader whose activities keep his name before the public,” the editorial stated. “Rather, he works quietly, motivating, encouraging and inspiring others.”

After being named Tri-Citian of the Year, Adams said, “No one can do it all, but everybody can do a little bit.” The sentiment was part of his daily mantra and continued after he retired in 1990, leaving the restaurants in the hands of sons Lee and Scott Adams.

He continued to volunteer as a Meals on Wheels driver after he retired.

Mueller’s Tri-Cities Funeral Home, Kennewick, is in charge of arrangements. Services have not yet been scheduled.

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