By Ann Cipperly
When Dolly and Paul Marshall were working in Washington, D.C., they began to think about owning their own business, as they were dealing with heavy traffic driving home to Virginia. As they researched businesses and franchises, McDonald’s peaked their interests. With an offer to have their own restaurant, they packed up and moved to east Alabama where they now own eight McDonald’s and a Sleep Inn & Suites. Along with being successful in business, the Marshalls generously give their time, talents and resources to the community.
In their office in Auburn where one wall is filled with honors and a highly coveted Ronald McDonald Award rests on a cabinet, Dolly and Paul look back on the 29 years they have made Tuskegee and Auburn their home and their tremendous success.
In Washington, D.C., the Marshalls were both federal employees, with Paul working for the Internal Revenue Service, while Dolly was employed by the Social Security Administration. “Neither one of us had worked at McDonald’s,” says Dolly, “but as we started doing research on franchises, McDonald’s kept coming to the top.”
Since McDonald’s does not pay during training, the Marshalls kept their jobs as they trained for two years. “At McDonald’s you have to be able to do what anyone does who works there,” adds Dolly, “including cleaning windows and mopping. McDonald’s has a certain way of doing everything.”
Once they completed training, several places were offered where they could have their own McDonald’s. They looked in Philadelphia, but they had always wanted to move south. Dolly is originally from North Carolina, and Paul, who is from Detroit, Mich., has family in Virginia and Maryland.
When Tuskegee was offered, they looked at the location and decided to take it. Neither one had been to Alabama before. At the time their children were young. Marcus was 3 year old, and Malcolm was 1.
“When the time came, “ says Paul, “we both cashed in pension plans and sold our house, rental property and everything we had to move to Tuskegee. It was a big risk doing this with two small children and no family nearby. People would ask what was plan B, but there was no plan B.”
In 1986 they opened the first McDonald’s in Tuskegee. “Thankfully, it worked out,” says Paul. “We opened with a bang. I would open in the mornings, and Dolly would go in later. The person who kept the boys is now our office manager.”
About three or four years later, the Marshalls looked at the Opelika and Auburn area. They purchased the existing McDonald’s at Exit 62 in Opelika and the one on Opelika Road. They closed the second location where Mandarin House is today and built the McDonald’s across from Auburn Mall.
Three or four years later they built the McDonald’s on South College and purchased the one on Magnolia Ave. Five years ago, they built the Tiger Town McDonald’s.
This year the family built the McDonald’s in Shorter at Exit 22 on I-85, bringing the number to eight restaurants. “It is hard work,” says Dolly. “We have over 400 employees.”
Both Marcus and Malcolm worked at McDonald’s growing up. “If you work for the owners,” says Marcus, “you could work at a younger age. We started putting toys in Happy Meals and then worked different stations.”
“I was working in the restaurant across from the mall at age 14,” adds Malcolm. “We worked our way up to manager and got paid the same as everyone else. We were taught a work ethic.”
The Marshalls extended their business portfolio in 2006 to include ownership of the Sleep Inn & Suites, located at I-85 and South College in Auburn.
Both Marcus and Malcolm attended Auburn High School. After graduation, Marcus attended Morehouse College and Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Ga., and has passed the bar. Malcolm is a graduate of Florida A &M University with a master’s in business administration.
While Malcolm was attending college in Tallahassee, Fla. he worked at a McDonald’s. “I applied like everyone else,” he says. “I didn’t tell them my parents were owners of McDonald’s restaurants.” At this point, Malcolm was already trained as a manager.
Marcus and Malcolm attended McDonald’s Hamburger University in Chicago. “People laugh about Hamburger U,” says Dolly, “but it is serious business. It is an intense business course, and people attend from around the world.”
Both sons have moved back to Auburn and are working in the family business and will one day take over their parents’ restaurants. Both have been approved as McDonald’s owner-operators.
“We have divided our duties,” says Dolly. “Paul’s background is in accounting, and I started in operations, Marcus is in charge of training, while Malcolm handles the technology side.”
After completing law school, Marcus decided to return home to learn from his parents. Being in charge of training, he has arranged space at the Auburn office where employees are hired and trained.
Together the family has expertise in different areas. Malcolm, who is married to Stephanie Taylor, is certified to repair computers and install programs in the restaurants instead of having to wait for someone to arrive from out-of-town.
With their busy work schedules over the years, Dolly and Paul have taken time to be active in the community, and now their sons are following in those steps as well.
Marcus serves on the board of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and is on the Planning Commission for the City of Auburn, while Malcolm is on the board for Leadership Lee County.
Paul has been on several bank boards, a charter board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County and the City of Auburn Economic Development Board and many other organizations.
Dolly has served on the Auburn City Schools Board of Education for ten years, which has meant a great deal to her. “It is hard work,” she says, “trying to do the best for all the students in the area. Sometimes people have different opinions.”
She has also served on the board for the East Alabama Food Bank, the United Way of Lee County, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, among others.
Dolly and Paul have provided a yearly scholarship to a graduating high school student in every high school in Lee and Macon Counties for over 20 years.
The Marshalls also have made substantial contributions to many local nonprofit organizations, including Auburn Day Care Center, Child Advocacy Center, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, Habitat for Humanity, Sickle Cell Association, Story Book Farms and others.
Paul and Dolly have received numerous awards, including the AG Gaston Enterprise Award; Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award; the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Eagle Award; the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Pi Epsilon Lambda Chapter Community Service Unity Award; the Dream Keepers Award; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award; the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Award, among others.
In addition to community awards, the Marshalls have received many honors and awards from McDonald’s Corporation, including numerous outstanding store awards, sales and profit awards, people awards, as well as the Atlanta Regional Ronald McDonald Award.
Dolly has also received the Atlanta Region General Manager Award. She has served as president of McDonald’s Women Operators Network for the Atlanta Region, as a member of the executive board of the Mid-South Co-Op, and the McDonald’s Atlanta Region Leadership Council.
As Paul and Dolly reflect on their years in east Alabama, they are proud of their sons for going into business in the community where they live and have given their time and resources.
“We get a chance to be together,” says Dolly, “and one day they will take over the businesses. We hope there will be many years the McDonald’s in this area will be owned by the Marshall family.”