It was big news in Yellowknife in the summer of 2015 when Kentucky Fried Chicken kicked the bucket after 48 years in the city.
So big in fact that the iconic restaurant’s closure will be the topic of a report by a University of Ottawa professor and one of her students.
Audrey Giles, a professor of Human Kinetics, said she has spent some time doing research in the NWT and was intrigued by stories of KFC being shipped all over the territory, including one about a couple who served it at their wedding and enjoyed it for every anniversary, even after the outlet closed in Yellowknife.
“They drove for hours, crossing the border into Alberta just so they could continue the tradition,” she said.
These stories prompted her to encourage one of her Masters students – Michelle Hope Rumford – to write a report on the impact the franchise had in Yellowknife and across the NWT.
Rumford, whose background is in Aboriginal studies, said she wanted to delve deeper into why some Indigenous – and for that matter non-Indigenous people – in the territory seemed almost unable to live without the colonel and of course his world famous secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.
“We were interested in looking at how there was such a big reaction online on social media and the many comments people made about the closure of the KFC outlet in Yellowknife,” she said, adding as much as she would like to come to Yellowknife to talk about KFC with local residents, there is no funding for that.
She said the paper will be written from her office mostly with anecdotes about KFC that were posted online.
Rumford said the paper may be complete in the next few weeks, but if she is able to get it published by an online publication it may take a little longer.
She said she particularly plans to focus on the emotional ordeal the Jason family, which owned the restaurant, went through during the franchise’s dying days.
“The last few days were insane,” Sasha Jason told Yellowknifer just prior to the closing in August 2015.
The last pieces of drumsticks and thighs were sold out the day before the official closure – a testament to just how much Yellowknifers enjoy their KFC. In the days leading up, the store delivered 29 cases of chicken, with each case holding 10 bags that contained 18 pieces, adding up to 5,220 pieces in total. All of it was gone in less than 36 hours.
Jason said in the past, the KFC has filled orders as large as 1,500 pieces of chicken going to places like the diamond mines. However, she added that the possible beginning of the end for KFC in Yellowknife came when head office stopped approving deliveries up north to smaller communities.
“Where we are, it’s different, it is a very isolated place, so there were allowances made for a really long time,” she said at the time.
Rumford added she will also probably look at the Mary Brown’s fried chicken outlet in Yellowknife, which opened in February, to see if it has had the same kind of impact as KFC. Its opening saw people waiting up to two hours to try the chicken, causing a line of cars to stretch down Borden Drive.