A piece of history is up for sale in Shelbyville, Kentucky and it’s so finger lickin’ good that Morgan Hancock’s phone is ringing off the hook. The property is pricey but the calls coming in from all around the world are mostly from “well qualified” buyers. The others, she says, are “passionate Colonel Sanders fans.”
A glimpse of history
Back in the 1930’s, long before he became “the Colonel,” Harland Sanders ran a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky. In the early history of American motoring such stations were more than places to fill up a tank of fuel, offering any services a wandering adventurer of the road might need, from tires to tobacco.
Sanders “first started offering his signature chicken at the gas station he owned, and quickly realized people wanted his chicken more than the gasoline.”
That’s when he and his new second wife, Claudia, decided to open a restaurant and motel. It became a success with travelers and locals alike and one day famous food critic Duncan Hines dropped by for a snack. That changed history.
Hines gave the restaurant a favorable write up in the 1935 road-food guide. Sanders popularity skyrocketed until he unleashed his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises on the world. They’ve since been re-branded to the ubiquitous KFC.
Harland, now an honorary Colonel to match his marketing image, moved with Claudia to Shelbyville, Kentucky. They built a primary 5,000-square-foot residence they named “Blackwood Hall.” Wanting to stay in the hospitality business, they also built a 25,000-square-foot dining hall and put up a big sign saying “The Claudia Sanders Dinner House.”
It’s been in operation as another part of local history ever since, and fully modernized when rebuilt after a fire. The restaurant still serves “Kentucky ham and biscuits, fried green tomatoes and, of course, plenty of chicken dishes.”
It could all be yours
Any entrepreneur wanting to capitalize on tasty American history for a marketing venture is looking at a potential goldmine, with built in brand recognition and commercial goodwill. Andrew Kung Group is brokering the sale for the current owners.
The Settles family were close friends with Harland and Claudia. They took over in 1970 and have been running it as a family operation ever since.
According to Jonathan Klunk, the listing agent, “There is so much rich history included in this sale.” That’s because “Claudia was the unspoken hero of her husband’s success in business, and he wanted to honor her by creating Claudia Sanders Dinner House and associated brands.”
The original dining hall burned in 1999 and was completely rebuilt. Blackwood Hall is virtually a museum. The Sanders family lived in the home “from 1959 to 1984” and it still contains “decorative touches original to the historic home.”
Another thing about the property as an added bonus, “the home and dining hall stand on three acres of commercially-zoned real estate, meaning that the new owner has free rein of quite a bit of land in addition to what has already been built.”
All of the Sanders history and memorabilia comes with the property, including an unseen roll of promotional film which could contain just about anything. The only thing that does not come with the purchase is a notebook containing a recipe. The recipe? Maybe. Whether it is or isn’t, it’s something the Settles family has become attached to and they’re hanging tight to it as a memento of their own.