McDonald’s changes ownership as Lowery retires

Monika Spaulding, Digital Editor

For 40 years, the Golden Arches of Mcdonald’s have been a second home to Marie Lowery. However, over the summer, she decided she was ready for a new chapter in her life. 

“I celebrated 40 years with McDonald’s,” she said, adding that she has looked at where McDonald’s is going in the future and while she agrees with the changes that are coming, she feels it is time to pass the baton and let someone else take the lead. 

Upgrades for the restaurants, including new exteriors and outdoor digital menu boards, are only a start. 

“There are so many great plans that if I stay, it would mean being committed to another five to seven years,” she said. “At the age of 75, I can’t do that. It’s time to retire the Golden Arches for Marie Lowery.”

Marie was born and raised in a small town of 1,200 in Texas, 100 miles northeast of Dallas.  She is one of seven children. 

After marrying Ben, they decided to move to Dallas to find jobs and start their life together. They started their family and Marie decided to stay at home with their children: Shannon, Monte, and Jeremy.  

“I stayed home from the time Shannon was born until Monte started kindergarten,” she said.

Ben was transferred through his job to Houston. Later, Ben’s mom came to live with them after his dad died.   

“So then we had a stay-at-home grandparent,” she explained. “We  decided in 1978 that it was time for me to go to work and help us get ahead.”

Marie and Ben were looking at newspaper employment ads when they saw an ad for McDonald’s. The ad read that the company was in search of women for management positions. As most people know, McDonald’s was founded as an all-male corporation. 

“This seemed like a great career opportunity,” said Marie.

She replied to the ad by phone and was immediately transferred to the human resource department. She was asked if she could go to the nearest McDonald’s for an interview right away. The gentleman insisted she meet him in 30 minutes 

“Ben went with me because we weren’t sure if this was a good opportunity,” recalled Marie.  “I interviewed and the man asked when could I start. I started the next day.”

Her first job with McDonald’s was a manager trainee, making $10,000 a year.  

“It was very challenging working in a male dominant environment,” she said. 

As an example, she said two weeks after she started, she was helping at a new store opening when the regional manager approached her and in the conversation said he wasn’t sure if she was going to make it in the restaurant business. 

“He said, ‘You dress too well and you are too darn skinny,’” she laughed. “Funny how things evolve. Six years later he had become a franchise owner in Houston over whom I was in charge.”  

Within a year, Marie was promoted to a supervisor position. She supervised men and women who had worked for McDonald’s much longer than she had. She was in charge of five stores.

The promotions kept coming as she was next promoted to a field consultant over franchise owners. These were owners with multiple locations totaling 35 stores. 

In 1986 she was awarded the President’s Award. This award is a national award that is given to the top 10% of the employees in the United States for their outstanding results in operations, sales, people and profitability. She was also awarded an all-paid trip to Maui.

In 1988, she interviewed for an operations manager position in South Bend. This was in the Indianapolis region. She accepted the position, relocated there and was responsible for 37 company owned restaurants. At this position she was awarded the Alpha Award, another national award, in 1991 for excellence in hiring, training, and development of her staff. There was also another trip to Maui.  

In 1991 Marie accepted a promotion and position as field service manager in Dallas, where she was in charge of all the franchisees and the field consultants. She was also in charge of training registered applicants. These were individuals that were being trained to be owners.  She moved back to Texas to take the position.

During her stay, she was promoted to multi department head.  This position was second in command to the regional manager over approximately 700 stores. Training, human resources and marketing departments answered to her. Since Texas was such a large region, she was on a plane often several times a week.

Ben was diagnosed with cancer and Marie knew she need to slow things down somewhat and not be away from home so much.  

Things changed for their family in October 1994.

“I got a call from my old boss in Indianapolis asking if I had ever considered becoming a franchisee,” said Marie.  “With Ben’s condition, the thought of an opportunity that wouldn’t demand so much travel was very appealing. Two weeks later, Oct. 31,1994, Marie was a new franchisee in Salem, staying at the Salem Motel.    

She took ownership of Salem, Mitchell, Corydon and Corydon Walmart.  Later she purchased Charlestown, Scottsburg Walmart and Bedford.   Marie felt too spread out so she sold three of them, leaving her with Salem, Mitchell, Bedford and a new restaurant in West Baden.  

“People don’t realize how difficult it is to come into a small community knowing no one,” she said. “Ben stayed back in Texas to get the house sold and officially moved to Salem in January 1995. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but I knew no one”.  

Ben and Marie worked hard to not only be involved in the stores, but also in the community. Eventually Shannon and her husband, Brian Wroblewski, and Jeremy moved to Salem to join their parents. His wife, Brianne, joined the family business after the two were married.  

“Getting involved in the communities really helped us get to know people quickly,” said Marie. “We started out with schools, sponsoring Teacher Nights, 4-H, Shop With a Cop and youth sports. 

Ben joined the Lions Club and Relay for Life. Shannon joined the Rotary Club and Salem Park and Recreation as a board member.

Jeremy was on the Salem High School football staff and served as the youth football director. Brian and Shannon coached youth baseball, softball, basketball and football.  

“We were also in charge of youth football concessions at one time,” said Marie.

Marie joined the Exchange Club, served as president for the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Salem School Board, member of the Economic Growth Partnership, Old Settlers Board and more.

Marie was also named the 2009 Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year. 

Over the years, the family was involved in community festivals, prayer breakfasts, YMCA sponsorships, Red Cross, parades, high school sports schedules and much more. 

“The family has enjoyed every minute of it,” said Marie. “I truly believe you have to give back to a community that embraces you. This goes without saying that every member of the family took a part all the way down from me to my three children and their spouses to the grandkids. All have worked at some point to help build the business.”

Marie is not one to shy away from work and has always been a self motivator. She is one of seven children and has always had the drive to succeed. 

“I would never have dreamed a hamburger place would be where a person could be successful, but McDonald’s is one,” she said.  

Marie has often wondered what God’s plan was for her. It became quite clear what that purpose was when she decided to retire and started telling her people about her retirement.  

“I was so caught up with the day-by-day part of the job that I didn’t realize that I had been given the chance to touch so many lives and hopefully have made a difference,” she said. “I truly do believe now that I made a difference”.  

When Marie decided to sell the stores, she and Brianne visited each restaurant to personally tell the employees that she was retiring and how much they were appreciated.  

“I am going to miss the people more than any thing,” said Marie. “I really enjoyed them and got to know them and their personal lives.”

Marie sold all four her stores to Gerard Stieglitz, who owns Nashville and Martinsville McDonald’s. Brianne will stay on with the company as a supervisor.

She said could have never accomplished all this without her family and especially her grandchildren: Jordyn, Lee, Tanner, Reese, Ben, Macy and Maddox.  

“I want to thank office manager Melissa Cauble and general managers Sonny, Joey, Samantha and Damon, as well as all the other managers and crew for leading the way to my success.”

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