Mary Browns fran­chisee forced out af­ter 44 years

Ed Whe­lan was the sec­ond op­er­a­tor in Canada with orig­i­nal Har­bour Grace lo­ca­tion


For 44 years, Ed Whe­lan was a suc­cess­ful Mary Brown’s fran­chise op­er­a­tor in the Con­cep­tion Bay North area.

He was the sec­ond fran­chisee in Canada, com­ing on board three years af­ter Patt Tar­rant and Cyril Flem­ing founded the com­pany in 1969.

He started out with a lo­ca­tion in Har­bour Grace and opened a sec­ond store in Bay Roberts in 1973. Plans for Veter­ans Me­mo­rial High­way, which was com­pleted in 2002, com­pelled Whe­lan to close the Har­bour Grace lo­ca­tion and open a restau­rant in Car­bon­ear.

As of Jan. 15, Whe­lan’s re­la­tion­ship with Mary Brown’s is no more. The cor­po­rate of­fice de­clined to re­new his fran­chise agree­ment, bring­ing his long­stand­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with the fried chicken out­let to an end.

The move im­pacts 20 work­ers in Car­bon­ear.

“I’m very down­hearted about it,” Whe­lan told The Com­pass last week.

The writ­ing may have been on the wall for Whe­lan’s busi­ness, given what hap­pened to his Bay Roberts lo­ca­tion in 2015. Mary Brown’s de­clined to re­new the fran­chise agree­ment that year, and a cor­por-atel-con­trolled lo­ca­tion has since opened in Bay Roberts.

Last Jan­uary, ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions were com­pleted at the Car­bon­ear store at the re­quest of Mary Brown’s, cost­ing Whe­lan a con­sid­er­able amount of money.

“They were giv­ing me an op­tion to sell, but I wouldn’t be al­lowed to sell un­less I had ren­o­vated the store, which I did,” Whe­lan said.

Ac­cord­ing to Whe­lan, busi- ness was as good as ever at the Car­bon­ear lo­ca­tion. Asked if he re­gret­ted go­ing along with the com­pany’s re­quest, Whe­lan said he didn’t have a choice.

“We had a prom­i­nent fran­chisee ready to buy up to (the week be­fore clos­ing),” he said, adding that the of­fer dis­ap­peared at the last mo­ment.

“I’m so thank­ful to all our de­voted cus­tomers. I made so many friends over 44 years in both Bay Roberts and Car­bon­ear.”

I’m so thank­ful to all our de­voted cus­tomers. I made so many friends over 44 years in both Bay Roberts and Car­bon­ear. — Ed Whe­lan

Whe­lan owns the build­ing, which also houses an an­i­mal hos­pi­tal and a ma­chine shop. He hasn’t thought a great deal about what will hap­pen with the un­oc­cu­pied por­tion of the build­ing, which is ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 square feet.

While he doesn’t know for cer­tain what Mary Brown’s plans are for the Car­bon­ear area, Whe­lan sus­pects the com­pany will make a move sim­i­lar to what took place af­ter the agree­ment for his Bay Roberts lo­ca­tion ex­pired.

The Com­pass con­tacted a mar­ket­ing man­ager at Mary Brown’s cor­po­rate of­fice in Markham, Ont. She said the re­quest for com­ment would be passed on to the com­pany’s vice-pres­i­dent of fran­chis­ing. The Com­pass did not re­ceive a re­sponse prior to dead­line.


For­mer Mary Browns fran­chisee Ed Whe­lan stands next to Joyce Bar­rett, who man­aged Whe­lan’s restau­rants in Har­bour Grace, Bay Roberts and Car­bon­ear for 40 years.


A sign on the door of the for­mer Mary Browns restau­rant in Car­bon­ear says it all.


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