HALEYVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) – Hal Hudson Guthrie did things a different way than some.
Graduating from Auburn University in 1963, the Jasper native worked as a surveyor at Alabama Power Company for years until he saw he decided he wanted to go into the restaurant business, encouraged by how his uncle and cousins had started their own business. Leaving behind a good job at a major company, Guthrie started his first Guthrie’s restaurant in Haleyville in 1965.
In 1978, Guthrie did something else outside the box. By that point, Guthrie’s served everything from hamburgers, shrimp, fried chicken tenders and onion rings. Guthrie decided his food needed something else: a special kind of sauce.
Instead of making it himself or paying someone to do it for him, Guthrie included his children in making the sauce. Ultimately, it was his 9-year-old son, Hud, who made the sauce Guthrie liked the most, one imitated by many restaurants over the years.
To this day, its recipe remains a family secret.
“We’ve experimented with it very little since,” said Joe, Guthrie’s son and president of the company.
Guthrie, who founded the Guthrie’s chicken franchise that has included over 30 restaurants across Alabama, Georgia and Florida, died Monday after battling a long-term illness. He was 82 years old.
More than its reputation as a chicken restaurant, Hud feels like his father created a restaurant that was about making everyone feel welcome.
“We just try to give people a good product and good price,” Hud said. “That’s what he always believed in.”
Hud said his father was about more than work, but was a family man. To this day, Guthrie’s remains fully family owned.
“He was the kind of person who tried to help others any time he could,” Hud said.
Guthrie was also a man of deep faith, Hud said, something he hopes is reflected in the restaurants.
“He loved Jesus,” he said.
Joe said that for those who just know the restaurant but not the man, his father led a full life.
“He was such a caring and gentle man who worked hard his entire life,” he said.
Hud Guthrie was just 9 years old when he came up with Guthrie’s famous sauce.
For Hud, the success his father had continues to serve as a lasting legacy with more restaurants coming this year. It’s success the family is grateful for.
“We’re just proud of what he started,” Hud said. “He pioneered the chicken specialty restaurant and we’re proud of what he’s done in the community. We will continue to be good servants of good food.”
A funeral will be held Thursday in Haleyville to celebrate Guthrie’s life. Visitation will be held at the First Baptist Church from 2 to 4 p.m. with the funeral to begin at 4 p.m. Burial will follow at Winston Memorial Cemetery.