Local McDonald’s owners mark 45 years in business
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 11:58

Manns own three Dundalk restaurants

by Nicole Rodman

    For Rod and Sharon Mann, McDonald’s is a family business.
    Since 1968, the Severna Park couple has owned and operated a number of McDonald’s restaurants around Baltimore.
    Today, the Manns own three McDonald’s restaurants in the Dundalk area — on Dundalk Avenue, North Point Boulevard and Wise Avenue.
    While the Manns are celebrating 45 years as McDonald’s franchise owner/operators, they did not originally set out to own their own restaurants.
    Rather, they were drawn into the business by Sharon’s parents, the Gibsons.
    The Gibsons became the first Washington, D.C.-area franchisees around 1957, just two years after Ray Kroc joined the McDonald’s organization.
    When Kroc found it in 1954, McDonald’s was a small hamburger restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, Calif.   
    By selling franchise rights, Kroc spearheaded the spread of McDonald’s across the nation and, eventually, the world.

Today, a large portion of the world’s McDonald’s restaurants are owned and operated by independent franchisees.
    In the Baltimore area, 83 percent of McDonald’s  restaurants are owned by families living in or near the communities they serve.
    One of these families is the Manns.
    In 1968, Rod and Sharon Mann each left established careers to join the family business.
    Rod was a successful engineer with C&P Telephone Company, while Sharon worked in accounting.
    As Rod pointed out in an interview with The Eagle, while Sharon’s experience in accounting would prove “invaluable” to the new business owners, the move from engineering to restaurant owner was not as smooth.
    “It was a little bit broader jump for me,” he explained.
    After buying the McDonald’s restaurant on Moravia Park Drive in Baltimore in 1968, the Manns purchased restaurants in Baltimore City and Timonium in 1970.
    In 1972, the Manns came to Dundalk, purchasing the Dundalk Avenue McDonald’s location. They would go on to buy restaurants on North Point Boulevard in 1974 and on Wise Avenue in 1979.
    By 1986, the Manns began downsizing, selling all but their three Dundalk-area restaurants.
    “We kept Dundalk,” Sharon noted, adding, “We like Dundalk.”
    In their 45 years as franchise owner/operators, Rod and Sharon Mann have seen many changes at McDonald’s.
    One of the biggest changes was the introduction of computers.
    Prior to computerized systems, everything — from taking orders to keeping the books — was done by hand.
    In fact, Sharon helped write the first computer program designed specifically for use in McDonald’s restaurants.
    The Manns have also seen many changes to the McDonald’s menu, including the addition of the Big Mac in 1969.
    “We’ve seen the menu expand, we’ve seen the cooking equipment become reasonably more automated over the years,” Rod explained.
    While the Manns are the owners of their three McDonald’s restaurants, they do work closely with the McDonald’s corporation.
    “McDonald’s is a fabulously mature franchise, they’ve been there and done that,” Rod said. “We’re very happy to go along with what we know works best.”
    But Rod has not limited his participation with McDonald’s to being a franchise owner/operator.
    Over the years, Rod has held leadership positions in various area McDonald’s cooperatives and councils.
    As Rod pointed out, McDonald’s has a large number of local groups, made up of franchise owner/operators, dedicated to providing feedback to the restaurant’s main headquarters.
    “This is how the company learns from the people out there making hamburgers,” Rod said.
    In addition to Rod’s roles in councils and co-ops, Rod and Sharon were founding members of the Maryland Ronald McDonald House.
    Today there are 322 Ronald McDonald houses across the globe.
    Ronald McDonald Houses serve as places to stay for families whose children are undergoing treatment at area hospitals.
    Rod and Sharon led the way in establishing a Ronald McDonald House on the campus of the University of Maryland in 1982.
    While that house has been added on to many times since 1982, there is no room for expansion at the current location.
    As a result, Rod noted, they are currently looking to build another Ronald McDonald House somewhere in the state.
    Rod and Sharon also give back to the Dundalk community in many ways.
    Originally a sound engineer by trade, Rod provides and runs sound equipment for local schools during special events such as Christmas concerts.
    Each year, the Manns’ restaurants also participate in such community events as the Dundalk Independence Day Parade and the Heritage Fair.
    Today, after 45 years as owner/operators with McDonald’s, the Manns are proud to be passing the torch to the next generation.
    Just as they followed in Sharon’s parents’ footsteps 45 years ago, today the Manns’ son Christopher continues in the family business.
    In addition to helping  operate the three Dundalk restaurants owned by his parents, Christopher owns the McDonald’s located on Back River Neck Road in Essex.
    He also recently wrapped up a term as president of the Baltimore McDonald’s Cooperative.
    When asked why they have stuck with McDonald’s after all these years, for both Rod and Sharon the answers are simple.
    “The people,” Rod noted, while Sharon concluded, “It’s never boring.”