FRANCHISE PLAYERS: Couple honored at McDonald’s 365Black Awards
Among the world’s most successful McDonald’s owners/operators, Las Vegas’ Harold and Tina Lewis are committed to making a difference in their community.
BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD
When McDonald’s hosted its annual 365Black Awards last summer at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans, Las Vegas business titans Harold and Tina Lewis were among those acknowledged at a ceremony meant to “honor and recognize outstanding individuals who make significant contributions that strengthen the African-American community.”
At the gala, held to coincide with the Essence Music Festival, the Lewises were in good company. Other 365Black Award recipients included legendary singer Chaka Khan, honored for her foundation for at-risk women and children; Bishop T.D. Jakes, recognized as a global humanitarian; NBA star Grant Hill and singer Tamia, honored for their community foundation that supports children; teen medical innovator Tony Hansberry II; and youth empowerment activist Mary-Pat Hector.
The Lewises own 10 McDonald’s franchises in Las Vegas; their newest location, at Interstate 215 and Flamingo Road, has revolutionized the brand by offering jazz music. The couple was recognized for giving more than $600,000 in scholarship money to college-bound high school seniors.
“We enjoy giving back to the community, and we encourage young people to go to a college or university to be able to be competitive in life,” said Harold Lewis. “Our daughter, Jennifer, graduated from UNLV in 2011, and we established a $50,000 scholarship in her name to assist others who need financial assistance for their college education. My wife, Tina, founded the AVAIL [African American Visionaries and Inspirational Leaders] scholarship in 1986, which has awarded over $550,000 to graduating high school seniors. We are also proud to sponsor a $10,000 scholarship program at our church.”
In an interview, Harold Lewis said that the McDonald’s 365Black Awards demonstrate the company’s commitment to celebrating the contributions of African-Americans not just during Black History Month, but all year-round.
“It was very exciting to receive the McDonald’s 365Black Award for giving back to the community,” he said. “Every time we can give back to impact someone’s life, it makes us feel good. When we can lay our heads down on our pillow at night, and know that we have helped somebody, then we can enjoy what we have. We cannot enjoy what we have if we don’t feel we have made a positive change in others’ lives.”
Married for 36 years, the Lewises have owned and operated 20 McDonalds’ franchises over a 24-year period. Their first restaurant was established in San Diego’s black community in 1987, delighting patrons who were thrilled to see unconventional-but-treasured items like grits on the menu.
Recognized by McDonald’s corporate offices for maintaining high-achieving stores with top-flight operations and profitability, they are determined to build a legacy that their three children will inherit. Already, their 33-year-old son Jeremy is a second-generation McDonald’s franchisee; their 23-year-old twins, Jonathan and Jennifer, are also expected to build on the family business.
Prior to owning their McDonald’s franchises, the Lewises each enjoyed successful careers in the airline industry, and also owned and operated a successful Sir Speedy Printing store. With their record as steadfast small business advocates so long and storied, Harold Lewis says, “McDonald’s offers wonderful opportunities to own and operate one’s business, but I encourage anyone thinking about becoming a franchisee to learn all they can about business and operations. With today’s economy, these business ownership opportunities contribute to job growth. We should also be so proud to celebrate the accomplishments of McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, who is African-American and oversees 33,000 restaurants worldwide.”
As community leaders, the Lewis family’s advocacy goes well beyond the realms of business and education. As a three-time cancer survivor, Tina Lewis not only contributes financially to the organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure, but also takes time to mentor women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Indeed, when asked to provide a motto that sums up their family’s work, the Lewises turn to a time-honored admonition taken from the Bible. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Harold Lewis. “That is very significant in our family.”