“How about a two-for-one apple kolacky with your Extra Value Meal?”
For good or for ill, this Eastern European version of a danish is not what you’ll likely find as a dessert option the next time you’re at McDonald’s. But if it hadn’t been for one particularly industrious Knoxvillian, it just might have been.
Time warp back with us to the early 1960s. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was back at the drawing board, at a loss for a winning dessert to round out his famous burger-and-fry combo. Brownies, strawberry shortcake, pound cake, and, of course, the famous kolacky—all failed. What was he to do?
Meanwhile Litton Cochran, a native Knoxvillian who opened the city’s first McDonald’s on Magnolia Avenue in 1960, was remembering the delicious little fried apple pies his mother made for him as an after-school snack. Cochran took a chance and decided to start serving them at his restaurant.
The little pies were so successful that Cochran’s first dessert chefs—his mother and sister—stepped aside so a commercial supplier could meet the demand. And the rest was fast food history.
Executives at McDonald’s corporate outside Chicago took notice of Cochran’s fried pie success and by 1970, Knoxville’s own southern fried apple pie could be found at every McDonald’s across America.
So while we’re still rooting for the kolacky, we’re pretty proud of Knoxville, and of Litton Cochran and the little piece of our city that forms a part of the greater American Pie.
Information source: Love, J. (1986). McDonald’s: Behind The Arches. New York: Bantam Books.