Remembering Mahalia Jackson’s Fried Chicken in Tallahassee

Food, Gospel Music, Memphis, Restaurants, Tallahassee, Uncategorized

Also on Adams Street was this building that I immediately recognized as a former location of Mahalia Jackson’s Fried Chicken. Note the similarity to the former location in Orange Mound in Memphis, where the words “Orange Mound” have been spray-painted on the upward swing of the roof. Mahalia Jackson’s Chicken System Inc. was an African-American fast-food venture launched by a group of Memphis businessmen led by A. W. Willis and Ben Hooks. Mahalia Jackson contributed her name and at least a portion of the chicken recipe. Locations were opened in predominantly-Black neighborhoods across America, but unfortunately, the Memphis businessmen decided to partner with former Tennessee gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker, who was seeming to have great success with Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken. Hooker’s Performance Systems Inc. bought 50% of the Mahalia Jackson system, and found rough going when they ran out of regions of the country to sell franchises. Ultimately all of the Minnie Pearl’s and Mahalia Jackson’s locations closed except for the Nashville franchise. That store was eventually purchased by E. W. Mayo, and became more famous for fried pies than chicken. I have heard that it now has closed as well. But this Tallahassee location, which I didn’t know about, is remarkably well-preserved.

Advertisements