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In the mid 1960’s, a few years after returning from the service to his native Middlesboro, J. Roy Shoffner began work in the family service station. Shoffner always had a mechanical knack about him and had the idea to modernize the family service station by adding an automated “Robo” carwash. One evening after work, at a local watering hole, he struck up a conversation with an acquaintance about his latest idea, to which the acquaintance replied, “have you heard about this thing called Kentucky Fried Chicken?”. He then went on to explain that he had a buddy that was doing quite well in the chicken business. The idea sounded interesting enough, so Shoffner arranged a trip to the Kentucky Fried Chicken offices in Nashville, TN to meet with then Director of Franchising (soon to be long time franchisee) John R. Neal, who ultimately sold him the franchise for Middlesboro, KY. The Kentucky Fried Chicken of Middlesboro was opened in the fall of 1968, as one of the first restaurant franchises in the area. It’s opening caused quite the stir, winning national sales award after national sales award through the late 70’s. It was all hands on deck with all of the Shoffner children and family on full or part time duty, depending on their ages of 7 through 14 at the time.
Shoffner soon began to expand into neighboring towns, first with Tazewell, TN in 1972, then Harlan and Cumberland KY in ’75 and ’76. Each resetting the bar for highest opening sales volume, including a headline in the Wall Street Journal There’s Gold in the Hills of Harlan County. In 1981, Shoffner’s son, Jay, returned home to assume full time operational responsibility as Area Coach, and adding their 5th restaurant in Pineville, KY in 1987. Jay and his wife Kelly bought out Shoffner in 1997. They have added restaurants along the way and now operate 29 KFC restaurants across KY, upper East TN and southern Indiana.