Mary Brown’s franchisee forced out after 44 years

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

Published on January 24, 2017

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

©Andrew Robinson/TC Media

CARBONEAR, N.L. - 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.

A sign on the door of the former Mary Brown’s restaurant in Carbonear says it all.
Andrew Robinson/TC Media

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 corporate-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, business 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.

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

“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.”

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.