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Original Kentucky Fried Chicken Site To Be Museum

January 19, 1990

CORBIN, Ky. (AP) _ The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is being restored as a working museum in this southeastern Kentucky town, which hatched a business that now has $5 billion in sales in 58 countries.

Officials working on the restoration hope to finish the project in time for the 100th birthday of the restaurant’s founder, Col. Harland Sanders. The unveiling of the new museum will coincide with Laurel County’s 1990 World Chicken Festival.

The restaurant and motel originally were called Sanders Court and Cafe. That’s where the colonel developed and perfected his famous recipe and the technique of pressure frying, said Wallace Hebert, marketing director for J.R.N. Inc., owner of the franchise.

There are now 7,900 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the United States and 57 foreign countries, including one in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, said Richard Detwiler, a spokesman for Kentucky Fried Chicken Corp. Retail sales were $5 billion in 1988, he said.

Franchise owner John R. Neal has wanted to restore the original restaurant for many years, said Hebert. It was closed in September 1988 and moved to a temporary location next door.

A restoration team is advertising to purchase any artifacts from the original restaurant, which opened in 1940, including furniture, menus and kitchen utensils, he said. Members of the community have donated silverware, old uniforms, tables, chairs and other items from the old restaurant.

One of the more unusual features of the old Sanders Court and Cafe was a model motel room that guests had to pass through in order to use the bathroom or the pay telephone, said Hebert. This was Sanders’ marketing strategy to show people the quality of the motel rooms and boost his motel business, said Hebert.

″He was a shrewd marketer. He really was,″ he said.

An official with the Laurel County Tourism Commission said he hopes the museum and the chicken festival, which will feature cooking contests, two parades and a Col. Sanders look-a-like contest, will boost the region’s tourist economy.

″We hope to make this an annual event,″ said Ken Harvey of the World Chicken Festival.

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