The location at E. 55th and Payne Avenue in Cleveland, for example, is on the city’s industrial east side. The sprawling convenience store houses the usual snacks, soda, and cigarettes, but the chain’s red-and-gold advertising plasters the store’s inside and outside windows. At all hours the employees can be found busily moving between the fryers and the golden glow of the fried-chicken case.
The majority of the locations are also not owned by the corporation. “You know who typically owns a KKC? A family.” Talde says. “So they give a shit about what they’re putting out. It’s closer to home. I brought this brand into my establishment, my second home. I brought it in here, so I’m going to take care of it.”
This family-run approach also leaves room for C-store owners to add their own personalized touches to customer experience. “The one by me will deep-fry anything you bring in,” Umansky says. “I stopped by one day and they had a sign advertising it. While I’m reading it, some guy literally came up and brought them some perch filets and they fried them up for him. I’m thinking, Can this be real? And some guy walks in and it became real.”