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Cuyahoga Falls has welcomed the return of Kentucky Fried Chicken with open arms.
Mark Lambos, who owns the new KFC franchise at 1792 State Road with his cousins Tony and Joe Lambos (who are brothers), said they've been "extremely happy" with their success since opening day Dec. 1, 2016.
"It was pretty exciting to see the amount of business we had when we opened up," Mark said. "Within a half-hour of unlocking the doors, this lobby was full."
"We're just really happy to be in Cuyahoga Falls," Mark said. "It's a great area." He said each day during construction at least one person out walking stopped to ask when they were going to open. "I couldn't get the store open fast enough," he said.
Tony Lambos said KFC's corporate office was receptive to opening a new location in Cuyahoga Falls where there had not been a KFC since 2012 when the store at 2050 State Road shut down.
The Lambos' connection to KFC began in 1960 when Mark's grandfather, Anton Lambos, a Massillon restaurateur in the 1950s, struck a deal in 1960 with Col. Harlan Sanders, who founded KFC in 1952.
Tony Lambos said his grandfather met Col. Sanders after he heard he was looking for people to sell his chicken. At that time, Col. Sanders was not well known, he said, so Anton drove to Akron and met with Sanders, Tony said. They talked, reached an agreement and sealed the deal with a handshake.
Anton Lambos agreed to sell the Colonel's fried chicken in his Kendall House, a Greek-American family restaurant in the Kendall Heights neighborhood in Massillon and devoted a page of his menu to Colonel Sanders' "famous original recipe" chicken and side dishes.
"There was a turning point in 1962 when Col. Sanders said, 'We're going to franchise this, so you have either take my food off the menu or take your food off the menu,'" Marks said. "My grandfather took his off the menu and went full KFC."
Although the restaurant's name was changed to Kentucky Fried Chicken (later KFC), the Lambos family business retained the name Kendall House. From there, the family business grew from that one KFC, which remains open today, to their 20th location in Cuyahoga Falls.
Mark said his grandfather "loved" Kentucky Fried Chicken and believed in the product. Mark said he also believes in KFC, stating each of the chain's products are "unique," from the chicken to the cole slaw to the gravy.
Mark said the recipe for the Colonel's chicken is a "well guarded secret and kept in a safe in Louisville, Ky." The cole slaw recipe is also a secret, Tony added.
Tony, Joe and Mark agreed they put in many long hours operating multiple restaurants, but they enjoy it. "It's a blessing working with my family," Mark said. "Everybody gets along."
"We have exceptional food that goes way back," Mark Lambos said. "There's just such a history, not just behind the KFC as a brand but in all the franchisees who've helped build it. KFC holds a special place in our hearts, probably because we grew up with it."
Mark noted every item on the menu is selling well.
The Falls KFC employs between 70 and 80 people, Mark said, and they are always hiring. Kendall House has approximately 600 employees, he added.
Falls KFC is open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. The phone number is 330-923-6590.