Halo Burger to be sold by Thomas family to Dortch Enterprises

Halo Burger restaurants across the Flint-area are expected to be under new ownership Wednesday, according to CEO Terry Thomas.

"It is a tough day today," CEO Terry Thomas said from his downtown Flint office on Saginaw Street. "It was different coming in today. There are a lot of memories here. Sometimes, I think I should write a book.

"I've been doing this for 57 years and have loved every day of it," Thomas said. "But after 66 years, we are selling. Today is our last day."

Dortch Enterprises, LLC , which owns 40 Subway restaurants in Genesee, Livingston, Shiawassee, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, will be the new owners of the nine Halo Burger locations in Genesee County and Birch Run. The paperwork to transfer ownership is expected to be signed Wednesday.

"I tried to turn it over to some key people in the organization," Thomas said. "We had some issues with the bank, so I backed off on it. My son didn't want to do it, so I had to come up with plan B."

That's when Dortch entered the picture. Thomas said he's been in negotiations with them for six months.

"I turned 70 this past year," Thomas said. "I've had a lot going on in life outside of the business. I'll take it one day at a time. Once they're sold, it's gonna be so different for me."

Thomas plans to spend some time in Florida after the sale. He is unsure what he'll do after that but hopes the business doesn't change under new ownership.

"I don't know why they would (change it)," Thomas said. "Business is as good now as it's ever been."

A Halo Burger employee said she had been told that "everything will stay the same."

Terry Thomas' father, Bill Thomas, began working for Sam Blair in 1938 at Kewpee Hotel in downtown Flint. Blair sold the Kewpee burger (now the Q.P. burger), which is still one of Halo Burger's most famous sandwiches.

In 1944, Bill Thomas began leasing the business from Blair and later from his estate. He bought the downtown Vernors Ginger Ale building in 1951 and in 1958, he had the chance to purchase the Kewpee business in 1958.

"He bid against five others and won," Terry Thomas said. "He owned everything but the name."

Because Bill Thomas didn't want to pay royalties to a Toledo man who purchased the Kewpee naming rights, he changed the business name to Bill Thomas Halo Burger.

So, how did Halo Burger get the logo that still brands the restaurant today?

"We sat down with a bunch of advertising people" Terry Thomas said. "Everyone put in their two cents. We had an artist come in and it started with a halo and a cow's head. It really was a combination of a bunch of ideas.

"It transpired into a pretty good business and it has done well for us."

Bill Thomas passed away in 1973, but Halo Burger continued to add locations throughout the area.

Halo Burger was voted the No. 1 burger in Michigan according to a 2002 Detroit News reader survey. The Flint Journal named Halo Burger the No. 1 hamburger in Flint in a 1983 newspaper survey.

Halo Burger employs 200 people. Dortch's website claims the company has 600 employees.

Lou Dortch Jr., President of Dortch Enterprises confirmed the purchase was expected to close on Wednesday but said he didn't want to go into details because the transaction wasn't complete. He said the company would release a statement later this week regarding the sale.

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