Henry L. Coaxum, Jr., a local McDonald's restaurant franchisee, has been presented with The Ronald Award. The prestigious award honors McDonald's owner/operators for outstanding service — to both the McDonald's brand through exemplary operations, marketing and employee relations practices, as well as to their local communities. Coaxum received the award along with his wife, Karen, at the 2010 Great Southern Regional Operators Association meeting held recently in Chicago.
Coaxum operates seven McDonald's restaurants in the New Orleans area. His first job with the McDonald's Corporation was as a manager trainee at the McDonald's restaurant located on the
I-10 Service Road and Read Boulevard in Eastern New Orleans in 1984. His career came full circle in 2002 when he became the owner/operator of that very same restaurant. This restaurant also has the distinction of being the first McDonald's to receive the Nation Restaurant News' Successful Settings Award in 2003.
Although three of Coaxum's original restaurants he opened in 2002 were damaged and closed due to Hurricane Katrina, he bought and reopened the St. Charles Avenue restaurant in February 2006 — just in time for the 150th Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. This was the first McDonald's restaurant to reopen on the east bank of New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, Coaxum set a restaurateur record by acquiring and reopening four closed full-service restaurants in five months. In December 2006, Coaxum reopened his originally-owned Read Boulevard location, which was rebuilt to its award-winning appearance and décor.
In January 2007, he reopened the S. Claiborne Avenue restaurant (one of his original three restaurants he owned pre-Katrina). In July of that year, he reopened the Bullard Avenue McDonald's, which was the first quick-service restaurant to reopen on that eastern New Orleans avenue.
For the people who know him, they are quick to say that he has "ketchup in his blood", meaning that he has distinguished himself operationally throughout his corporate career. Working through the ranks, Coaxum became a member of the McDonald's corporate staff in 1989 in the South Florida region, and continued in the New Orleans region thru 2002.
Coaxum helps to keep the "Golden Arches" shining through his fundraising efforts with: the 100 Black Men of Greater New Orleans; the Grambling University Athletic Foundation; the African American Heritage Program of the Preservation Resource Center; the New Orleans African American Museum; the United Way of Greater New Orleans; the Louisiana ArtWorks; the Amistad Research Center's Achievement Committee; and the United Negro College Fund. Coaxum served as Chair of the UNCF's Annual "Fund Run" for 2007 and 2008.
Coaxum was the first McDonald's operator to receive the Nation's Restaurant News' 2007 Franchisee Star Award at the annual Restaurant Leadership Conference held in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was selected by the McDonald's Corporation to attend the 2008 National African American History Month celebration at The White House for being an "outstanding ambassador in his community and for his excellence in leadership." In April 2008, he received the Phoenix Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for his "outstanding disaster recovery efforts".
In July 2008, Coaxum was recognized by Talladega College with a Regional Outstanding Alumnus Award, presented to him at the college's Triennial Reunion held in Atlanta, Ga. His affiliation with McDonald's has greatly benefited Talladega, resulting in valued sponsorships of programs essential to financially sustaining the 141-year-old college's legacy. In October 2008, Coaxum garnered the McDonald's Corporation's regional sponsorship of the Chris Paul Basketball Camp for youth in the New Orleans area.
On September 25, 2009, Coaxum celebrated his 25th anniversary with the McDonald's Corporation, including his years as a corporate employee and as a franchisee. The celebration was held with his staff at the newly renovated Coaxum Enterprises Training and Resource Center, a 6,000 square-foot facility that houses his corporate office and training and equipment labs.
In August 2010, Coaxum was elected as President of the Great Southern Region's Black McDonald's Operators Association. Also in August, Coaxum was appointed by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as Chairman of the NOLA Business Alliance Board, launching the city's first-ever public-private partnership for economic development. Also that month, he was appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the city's Hospital Service District Board that will oversee the development and operation of a full service hospital in Eastern New Orleans.
Coaxum's work with the area's youth also is being furthered as a McDonald's franchisee. He offers two education incentive programs for his student employees. For high school students, employees are rewarded with pay raises for good grades. And for college students, his "scholarships" help pay for books and tuition if the student employees' grades are maintained while being employed. "Our youth need to learn that you can get rewarded if you work hard at both school and a job. Who knows, that job could end up being your career," he says.
Karen Nabonne Coaxum is a contributing writer with New Orleans Agenda.com, the leading local alternative for information on News, Arts, Culture & Entertainment in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region. She may be reached via email at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of Coaxum Enterprises.
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