NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– It is a super-sized milestone for a member of the McDonald’s family. Leaders in North Haven held a surprise party on the town green for a restaurant owner who not just serves burgers, but serves the community as well.
We couldn’t tell if there was really a look of surprise under John McKnight’s mask as a few dozen people on the North Haven green shouted “Surprise!” at him. After all, he knows it has been 50 years since he started working in his father’s McDonald’s.
“I started when I was 14,” McKnight remembered. “I enjoyed going out with him and going to the other restaurants. I enjoy dealing with the people.”
They enjoy him right back, both customers and former employees like Gramen Wilson, who now runs a bunch of McDonald’s.
“The fact that he made such an impression on me, and the successes that I’ve had, I attribute to him.”
It’s not just longevity that got the town’s top leaders to proclaim today to be “John McKnight Day” in North Haven. It’s the fact that, once McKnight worked his way up and owned the McDonald’s on Washington Avenue, he was constantly giving back to the community. Republicans and Democrats agree on that.
“Every Saturday you go by McDonald’s. There’s a car wash,” said State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “Whether it’s the cheerleaders or the soccer team or the football team trying to raise money. Every single Saturday and Sunday, frankly.”
“I’m so pleased to be able to be here today to recognize him and he is the kind of person who really builds the fabric of a community,” said Democratic State Senate President pro tempore Martin Looney, whose district includes part of North Haven.
Some of those politicians even use the restaurant to hold weekly office hours with constituents. McKnight says his philosophy comes straight from the founder of the fast-food chain.
“Ray Croc had always taught us, take care of the community, the community will take care of you,” McKnight said. “That’s a prime example of North Haven.”
If you do the math, McKnight is 64 now, He says he has a one-year-old granddaughter with whom he would like to spend more time, but he is not ready to retire quite yet.