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Area franchisee opens new Stockbridge McDonald's

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Fifteen-year-old Jamaal Sallette recently got a part-time job to become more responsible and to have some spare cash to cover for things like the driver's permit fees he plans to pay in coming days.

Sallette, a rising junior at Eagle's Landing High School in McDonough, has been working a few weeks at the newly opened McDonald's on Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge.

"I like it here," he said. "I like that everybody is happy here. I even like my boss."

His boss is 73-year-old owner, Ray Justice, of Stockbridge, who said he started his career much like Sallette. "I started out as just an employee ... making milkshakes [in 1958]."

The then-24-year-old Justice had owned and operated a Zesto's Restaurant in Greensboro, N.C., and decided to sell it to begin working at McDonald's, a new type of short-order restaurant in the 1950s.

"The company was so young," he said. He took on serving the company's 15-cent cheeseburgers for about a year, before becoming the supervisor of one of the restaurant franchises in Charlotte, N.C., and part-owner of a McDonald's restaurant in Orlando.

He became a supervisor, then a manager, and eventually decided to become a franchisee in 1965. He started his first McDonald's franchise in Hapeville.

Over the years, Justice had grown a new upstart into a chain of restaurants spanning four metro-Atlanta counties, including Clayton, Fayette, South Fulton and Spalding. He and then-business partner, Emil Shoeman, came to own as many as 15 McDonald's restaurants between Hapeville and Griffin.

Justice, who retired several years ago, now owns and operates two of the area's McDonald's franchises, including the restaurant at Mt. Zion Parkway in Morrow and Henry County's newest McDonald's, located on Hudson Bridge Road in Stockbridge.

The restaurant is the first McDonald's franchise to exist in that area of Stockbridge since the last restaurant closed some six years ago.

Heather Hoover, a Stockbridge stay-at-home mother, frequents the new restaurant with her two-year-old daughter, Mikaela. "I've probably been here three times in the last week," she said. "And I like the playground, because [Mikaela] can play as I eat."

Hoover, 19, said she grew up in the area and frequently patronized the previous restaurant, which was located less than a mile away on Eagle's Landing Parkway. Until recently, she said she would have to travel out of her way, if she wanted to get to a McDonald's.

The new restaurant has exceeded expectations in terms of its popularity, according to Justice. "It's doing much better than I expected."

He added that the restaurant industry has received several hits in a relatively short period of time. Though McDonald's has seen steady company profits through the declining economy, he said the coupling of increased food prices with the recent increases to the federal minimum wage (from $5.85 to $6.55), among other factors, has impacted how business is done at many restaurants.

"Even in these economic times, we're showing increases," Justice said. "We talk about it and work on it diligently. What we're trying to do is cover a little of the costs, but we have had to raise some of the costs of our food."

Justice, who currently lives in Stockbridge with his wife, Amy, has been with the McDonald's company for more than 49 years now. He plans to attend the Grand Opening celebrations for the new McDonald's on Hudson Bridge Road on Aug. 16.

"My favorite part about this job is interfacing with the customers in the stores," he said. "Before, I couldn't be at all those [15 different] locations."