Book reveals interesting history of family behind first FL McDonald's

- There's a little bit of McDonald's history in Tampa. The first ever McDonald's in the state of Florida opened its doors in 1958 at 3515 South Dale Mabry in South Tampa.

Three renovations later, it's still there. When the older customers come in and start reminiscing, Guest Services
Manager Quon Shepperd pulls out a photo of the original store to show them.

"I get it for the older customers when they come in so I can take them down memory lane. Somebody once a day tells me how they've been coming here for years," Shepperd said.

It's part of family history for Blake Casper and his sister, Allison Casper Adams.  It was their grandfather, Fritz Casper, who owned a men's clothing shop in Waukegan, Illinois. A man named Ray Kroc was a frequent customer.

"Ray had been spending time in Waukegan. He got to know Fritz through the clothing store, and he had a passion for clothes, so it built from there," Blake said. 

Kroc convinced Casper that this was the beginning of something big. So Fritz Casper traded shirts and ties for burgers and fries, opening store number 86 for the fast growing empire.

Allison explains why the number may be slightly suspect, "It really wasn't even 86 because Ray was such a great salesman he started out numbering them at 26 to make it look like  there were a lot more."

Ray Kroc will come to life on the big screen in January in "The Founder," a new film starring Michael Keaton. It will likely be a colorful account of how McDonald's got started. But just this week, a new book, "Ray and Joan," is a more personal account of the man, his last marriage and the woman who gave away his billions after he died.

Author Lisa Napoli delves into the Kroc's personal life together, and her overwhelming generosity to all manner of charities when she was widowed. Joan Kroc bequeated $1.6 billion to The Salvation Army, the largest one-time gift on record.

Says Blake Casper, who read the book, "You can really see what she brought to the table and she was a powerful lady in her own right."

The Caspers now operate 53 stores in the Bay Area and the decidedly different Oxford Exchange across from The University of Tampa. A photo of Ray and Fritz smile down on the customers sipping coffee and tea, and browsing through books. Blake Casper's grandfather didn't live to see it open, but his grandson says he would approve. In fact, Blake Casper thinks both Fritz and Ray would pull up a chair.

He says, "Oh I think they'd love it! I mean Fritz would have thought I was crazy, but once it got built? He would have loved it."

Author Lisa Napoli will discuss her new book, "Ray and Joan, The Man who made the McDonalds fortune and the Woman who gave it all away," this Sunday November 20 at The Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa. The event is at 2:30 and is free and open to the public.

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