BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill founder and CEO Lowell Hawthorne, 57, committed suicide last weekend, leaving behind a bakery empire that serves nine states and the island of Jamaica.
According to police, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Hawthorne shot himself in the head inside of his Park Avenue office in the Claremont section of the Bronx.
The New York Post broke the story that—according to Hawthorne’s relatives—the Golden Krust founder was in fear that the federal government was investigating him for avoiding millions of dollars in taxes.
In addition, Hawthorne faced a class action lawsuit in August alleging that he did not provide overtime pay to more than 100 Golden Krust workers and had failed to pay his workers minimum wage.
“It’s a shock to everybody involved,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. “Clearly, it is a suicide. We have a suicide note, which I would never divulge to anybody — that’s personal. But it clearly shows that he was in crisis at some point.”
Hawthorne migrated to the United States in 1981 with his family, working as an accountant with the city’s Police Department. In 1989, Hawthorne decided to open a bakery on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, providing Jamaican home-style food inspired by his father.
In 2012, Hawthorne released an autobiography titled The Baker’s Son, which shared his journey from Jamaica to the United States and the development of his small Jamaican business into an American empire.
Golden Krust currently operates 13 restaurants in Queens, more than in any other borough in the city, and serves such Caribbean favorites as beef patties, jerk chicken, curry goat, ackee and cod fish.
“We are at a loss to conceive the notion that Lowell Hawthorne, the baker’s son from the Jamaican hilltop community of Border whose culinary gifts and can-do spirit gave birth to a surging restaurant and food retail enterprise that employs several hundred people in locations across America, is now gone to us,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-Jamaica). “Since its creation, Golden Krust has always been more than a franchise. It is both an expression of cultural pride and devotion to community. I wish to extend my condolences to the Hawthorne family for the sudden and untimely passing of their beloved Lowell. We will not soon forget the many contributions of the man who took the taste of the Caribbean to the world.”
Shortly after the news of Hawthorne’s death, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “We are shocked and saddened by the death of Lowell Hawthorne. Our prayers are with his family and his loved ones.”
Hawthorne leaves behind his wife, Lorna Hawthorne; four children—Haywood Hawthorne, Omar Hawthorne, Monique Hawthorne and Daren Hawthorne; and his first granddaughter.
The Hawthorne family will hold a candlelight vigil at Golden Krust’s first location, 1281 East Gunhill Road in the Bronx, on Dec. 9 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. as well as a wake at the Grace Baptist Church, located at 52 S. 6th Ave. in Mount Vernon, on Dec. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be a home-going service at the Christian Cultural Center, located at 12020 Flatlands Ave. in Brooklyn on Dec. 19, with a viewing at 8 a.m. and the service beginning at 9 a.m.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel