Utah funeral services pending for KFC founder Pete Harman

History • His partnership with Col. Sanders was sealed with a handshake.

KFC has reopened a new store at the site of the first KFC in the world at 3890 South State in Salt Lake. Looking like the current KFC buildings of today, the new store features historical photographs and artifacts including one of the Colonel Sanders original suits. The grand opening will be Aug. 11. Photo by Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune 08/06/2004

Few people outside Utah know that the first Kentucky Fried Chicken — now KFC — was located in Salt Lake City.

It launched in 1952, when Leon "Pete" Harman, owner of the Do Drop Inn at 3900 S. State, decided to add a chicken entree to his menu — prepared by his good friend Col. Harland Sanders. The friends sealed their fried chicken partnership with a handshake.

Harman died earlier this week at the age of 96. Funeral services are still pending but will take place in Utah and California, where he moved after retiring.

"Neither the Harman system nor the KFC brand would exist as we know them today without Pete's selfless leadership, commitment, or passion," officials of the Harman Management Corporation in Los Altos, said in a prepared statement.

Harman's mother passed away shortly after his birth in Granger, on Jan. 16, 1919. The youngest of 14 children, he was taken in and raised by his Aunt Carrie. Harman credited her for supporting his entrepreneurial ideas and shaping his life, the statement said.

Harman's career in the restaurant industry spanned more than 80 years, starting as a teenage busboy in San Francisco, where he met his wife Aline. The couple moved to Utah and purchased a small hamburger stand called the Do Drop Inn. They struggled to make ends meet until meeting Sanders, born in Indiana, at a restaurant convention in Chicago. Sanders died in 1980 at the age of 90.

The original KFC building was demolished in 2004 and was replaced with an updated restaurant that contains KFC and other memorabilia from Harman's early restaurant days.

"Pete was known throughout the KFC system as an innovator," the company said. "His vision of "to go" meals revolutionized the restaurant industry when he packed 14 pieces of chicken, 5 biscuits, and a pint of gravy in a bucket for busy families to take home."

Today, KFC's parent company is Yum! Brands, Inc. According to its website it has more than 40,000 locations in more than 130 countries and territories and employs more than 1 million people.