Lowell Hawthorne, the founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, committed suicide Saturday evening in his Bronx factory, according to police.
The founder died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 57.
The businessman’s life was an inspiration story known even in his native Jamaica, which he left in the early 1980s to pursue better opportunities in the U.S. The son of a baker, Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx in 1989, later becoming the first Caribbean-owned business in the U.S. to be granted a franchise license, according to its website.
He went on to build more than 120 restaurants in nine states over the next almost-three decades of business.
“It’s a very humbling experience to know that the concept that began in Jamaica with our parents was able to come here,” Hawthorne told the New York Daily News in 2012.
Today the company produces more than 50 million patties a year that are also sold in retail stores.
“Look how far he reached. He’s known from here to Jamaica,” Family friend Wayne Muschamb told the New York Daily News. “I’m kind of lost for words, man. This has got me shocked.”
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness sent out a tweet of condolence upon hearing the news:
In 2012, Hawthorne published his memoir titled, “The Baker’s Son.” He also appeared in an episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss,” in 2016.
Hawthorne leaves behind his wife, Lorna, three sons, and a daughter, who all work for the company. Many other family members were also involved in the company.