CHATHAM — When Derrick Taylor and his wife became franchise owners of a McDonald's in Chatham six years ago, they knew the restaurant would be a popular place to grab a quick bite to eat.
But they had no idea the restaurant at 7900 S. King Dr. would turn into a de facto community center and meeting space.
“It's the busiest place in Chatham," said Trina Burton, 44, a CTA bus driver for 11 years. "This place has relaxing music and not that rap stuff these kids listen to all day. It is clean, convenient, and the food is good, too."
Like other CTA drivers, Burton often just hangs out at the restaurant between shifts.
"I like it, and so do most of my co-workers,” she said.
Senior citizens who live in the area are also regulars.
Jerry Rodgers, 73, of Chatham, meets his friends “at least five days a week at McDonald’s.”
The retired mechanic has kept this routine up for the last five years.
“McDonald’s has good coffee. There’s a lot of space here for us to sit down and talk shop for a while with no worries about being asked to leave,” Rodgers added.
Two of his friends, Clinton Smith, 50, and Beverly Taylor, 58, said they use the McDonald’s as an office.
“I don’t have an office at home, so I use McDonald’s as my office," Smith said. "This is where I can come to meet friends or take care of some business over a hot cup of coffee."
Smith traces his comfort level with the restaurant to his youth.
“When I was little, I remember going to McDonald’s with my mom and seeing a lot of old guys sitting around doing nothing but talking. Now that I am old, I do the same thing.”
The three even have their own table at the restaurant.
“If someone is sitting at our table we kindly ask them to move. We like to sit by the window and watch the buses drive pass,” Taylor said.
William Hunt, 64, and Cleveland Ford, 75, said they, too, meet at least once a week at the McDonald's to grab a cup of coffee and socialize with other seniors.
The Taylors purchased their first restaurant in 2000 at the Chicago Skyway, 8871 S. Kingston Ave., according to Rau Jessica, a spokeswoman for McDonald's Corp. In all, they own six franchises — including another one in Chatham at 29 E. 87th St.
Working with so many community members is fulfilling for Taylor, 51, who previously worked for 14 years as an engineer for the City of Chicago and an assistant aviation commissioner at O’Hare International Airport. He also had a brief career as a professional football player before a knee injury.
"I am a people person and enjoying working at all my restaurants," said Taylor, who lives in the south suburbs. "It allows me to interact with the community and encourage young people to stay in school and do great things."
Taylor said working with his wife, Cheryl, is refreshing, too.
"She is my co-pilot," said Taylor, an alumnus of Percy Julian High School on the South Side. "I cannot fly without her."