‘He’s going to be missed’

Bolden sells his interest in Hardee’s

Photo by Jody Isaackson Lionel Bolden recently sold his share in Hardee’s to his partner John Figlewecz of California. Bolden has fond memories of all the generations of families who have worked for him at his restaurants.

MARSHALL — A pillar of the Marshall community wasn’t going to be allowed to retire without a little fanfare, Hardee’s general manager Jane Schauman said about her soon-to-be former boss — Lionel Bolden.

Bolden sold his share of the Hardee’s franchises to co-owner John Figlewecz from California on Jan. 29. Figlewecz will be the new sole owner.

“Lionel has done so much for this community (such as sports supporter),” Schauman said. “Being his GM so long, I’ll be lost without him. He’s going to be missed.”

Bolden said he graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 1976, the same time as Chad Wyffels of Borch’s.

“When I heard that Chad was retiring, it got me to thinking,” Bolden said.

He also thought about how the profit margins were getting tighter as the minimum wage was creeping up.

“Food costs and labor expenses are the two biggest things you can control, but you can’t raise your prices too high or people won’t eat at your place,” Bolden said. “And, even if you paid $15 per hour, it isn’t enough to support a family on. Paying that would be a big strain on a business like ours.”

Additionally, some jobs will become automated like food kiosks, he said.

“Wages have always been above average here in Marshall,” Bolden said, “paying two dollars over the minimum. When you have so many workers per shift and paying an average of $11.65 per hour, it’s tough to survive. Eventually you have to cut back on employees.”

Bolden said his staff was mainly students working part time, but he’s been with this restaurant for three generations of workers.

Bolden said he was going to miss the customers, vendors and his employees.

“I loved the interaction with people,” he said. “Over the 40-some years we’ve had several families with three generations of family members work here. Thousands of our employees still work in the community of Marshall, working in high profile jobs.”

They learned good social skills working at Hardee’s, learned how to work as a team and to work with customers, he said.

“There’s a lot of pressure, day in and day out, to connect with your personnel and be a problem solver,” he said. “You want to relax instead of putting out fires all the time. The labor pool has changed since I first started. It’s smaller and has less quality.”

After Bolden graduated from SMSU with a degree in hotel/restaurant management, he spent nearly five months working in KFC National Management in the Twin Cities prior to returning to Marshall as the assistant manager of this Hardee’s, he said.

“We started in November 1976,” he said. “Steve Mohwinkel was the store manager at that time. I became the general manager after six years. We were the first fast-food restaurant in Marshall. McDonald’s didn’t come until January or February of 1977.”

In 1984-1986, the duo built more Hardee’s restaurants, five in 25 months, he said.

“At that time I became an owner,” he said.

The Marshall site had a major fire in 1991 and had to be scrapped and rebuilt, Bolden remembers.

“That was an emotional time,” he said. “Fortunately we had good insurance that covered keeping key employees and keep them busy during reconstruction.”

Over the years a larger group of partners came into play. Cliff Dahm, Tom Lien, Pat Irsfeld, Jim Meulebroeck, Mike Boedigheimer and Cy Schroeder came on board, Bolden said.

“By 1988 we were up to 10 restaurants, including the one in Granite Falls,” he said. “Then we downsized to four before they sold their shares to John Figlewecz in March of 2012. John and I became partners.”

The four remaining restaurants were in Marshall, Granite Falls, Sleepy Eye and Milbank, South Dakota.

“In 2013-2016, we built seven more stores in three years,” Bolden said. “Two in Mankato, one each in New Ulm, Fairmont, Moorhead, Willmar and West Fargo, North Dakota. I was doing a lot of running.”

With all his experience on the road, Bolden said that he was going to look into delivering vehicles for Lockwood Motors. That, and spend more time with his wife, Cindy, and their three grown daughters, Staci, Stephanie and Shannon, and their families.