A Businessman Emerges
Utilizing the discipline he learned from the Civil Rights Movement, Hank Thomas ventured into business after the military. In 1976, he became friends with another Black GI who had the same idea as he. Together, they partnered and began a business that installed coin laundry mats for apartment buildings. With strong business minds, they escalated their business to 8 locations within a few short years. They later branched out to 3 stand-alone coin-operated laundry mat locations in strip shopping centers.
Channel 2 News became interested in their story and highlighted them on a report they were doing, People with Full Time Jobs and Part Time Businesses. this would give Hank Thomas his breakthrough with Dairy Queen, who contacted him because they were looking for Black people to become a part of their franchise. With an amicable separation from his partner, Mr. Thomas took on the challenge.
In 1978, he opened his first Dairy Queen giving himself a salary of $160.00 a week. After owning and operating 3 Dairy Queens, he was contacted by the Wish Bone fried chicken franchise. Again, Mr. Thomas would meet and succeed the challenge, owning and operating 3 Wish Bone fried chicken locations.
After marrying the love of his life, Hank Thomas propositioned Yvonne Thomas, his wife now of over 30 years to “pool their talents,” which would lead to them owning Dairy Queens, Burger Kings and later transition to Burger King’s biggest competitor, McDonalds, where they remained franchise owners for 31 years. Yvonne Thomas acknowledges that McDonald’s has been very important to African American business aspirations in the community in which they service. McDonalds clearly believes that Black History is 365 days a year. Having recently sold their McDonald stores, Hank and Yvonne Thomas are now concentrating on their Marriott Fairfield Inns franchises (two Fairfield Inns, two TownePlace Suites), of which they have owned for a decade.