Lowell Hawthorne of Greenburgh, CEO of Golden Krust restaurants, has one of his famous beef burgers at his Bronx factory in 2013. Golden Krust plans to move his operations to Rockland, to an extension of $ 37 million bakery, distribution center and corporate facilities will build on Route 303 in Orangetown, according to documents filed with the Rockland Industrial Development Agency. (Photo: Ricky Flores / The Journal News)

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Lowell Hawthorne, who built a Caribbean food empire by popularizing the Jamaican meat pie from coast to coast, was found dead inside his Bronx factory on Saturday night for an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The body of Hawthorne, 57, of Greenburgh, the president of Golden Krust Bakery and Grill, was discovered inside the Park Avenue factory in the Claremont section of the Bronx around 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Preliminary indications suggest that Hawthorne took his own life, but police continue to investigate the circumstances prior to the death of Golden Krust CEO.

With the help of his family, Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx in 1989, arriving from Jamaica at the age of 21 with a secret recipe for minced veal patties wrapped in puff pastry, a popular food of the island nation.

Over the next 28 years, Golden Krust expanded to some 120 franchises in the United States. , selling beef burgers and jerk chicken under the slogan "We bring the flavor of the Caribbean to the world".

The epicenter of the extensive franchise – from shop windows on the east coast to ShopRites and Costcos further west – was the Park Avenue factory in Golden Krust, built in 1996.

In 2016, the company announced plans to focus its national operations on a 17-acre parcel on Route 303 in Orangetown, one mile south of the New York State Expressway.

The Golden Krust headquarters of $ 37 million remains in the planning phase. But the company had already won the support of the Rockland Industrial Development Agency, which negotiated more than $ 1.2 million in tax incentives to attract Golden Krust to the north.

The plan was to consolidate the company's legal and corporate offices into a new 100,000-stone plaza that would house a factory to make Golden Krust pies, breads and cakes.

In 2013, Hawthorne wrote a memoir, The Baker & # 39; s Son .

In it, he recalled a childhood in Jamaica, where at the age of 10, he was raising rabbits, chickens and guinea pigs.

While on the customs line at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the day after his 21st birthday, he imagined the opportunities that lay ahead.

This is the kind of place that embraces immigrants, "he thought.

Follow Thomas C. Zambito on Twitter: @TomZambito

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