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That time when KFC was Scott's Chicken Villa

Posted by Ed Conroy / October 12, 2012

KFC TorontoOnce upon a time in Toronto KFC was actually a tasty, gingery golden brown coloured fast food known as Kentucky Fried Chicken and sold at a chain of take away restaurants called Scott's Chicken Villa. Their coleslaw was made with Miracle Whip, sugar and carrots and the gravy was a delicious stew of thick and lumpy goodness.

Master chef and creator Colonel Sanders was a proper old-school eccentric gentleman from small town Indiana who grew so disillusioned with the draconian tax laws of the Internal Revenue Services that he liquidated personal ownership in all Kentucky Fried Chicken chains in America, retired to a feathered red-bricked home in Cooksville Ontario and concentrated on franchising his auric style of deep-fried fowl in the great white north. "In Canada, you don't have to watch for tricksters and shysters," he once said. "You can do things on a handshake."

Scott's was part of the Scott's Hospitality empire, founded by the late entrepreneur George Gardiner, which opened its first Scott's Chicken Villa under the Kentucky Fried Chicken banner in 1962 and who also owned a fleet of school buses, hotels, Black's photography shops, and the Manchu Wok fast-food chain before closure in the 1990s. There were over 100 Scott's Chicken Villas in Ontario, all designed with the same retro style slanted roof buildings (some of these unique buildings still house modern KFC franchises) and catering the original recipe flavour that many Canadians still fondly recall. Amazing to think that even as far back as 30 years ago, disgruntled Kentucky Fried Chicken fans from the United States would cross the border just to re-live the "finger lickin'" glory they had grown up with.

Sanders had bolted from America to Mississauga in 1965, although he continued to serve as the world wide face of Kentucky Fried Chicken in advertising and tireless personal appearances, rather impressive for a man of his vintage. He retained full control of the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand in Canada until his death at age 90 in 1980.

Even though he was complicit in the mass marketing of it, Sanders was openly hostile and extremely vocal about the lack of quality control in favour cost-cutting and money grubbing that he saw sullying the brand he had slaved so hard to build south of the border. He was sued (unsuccessfully) by a group of U.S franchisees when he commented "My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy water for 15 to 20 cents per thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I've seen my Mother make it! To the wallpaper paste they add some sludge and sell it for 65 or 75 cents a pint. There's no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it." One can only imagine the fury of the good Colonel if he saw what a travesty the steroid laced, overpriced KFC menu has since become.

Colonel Sanders was a deeply religious, hardworking promoter who valued quality control over profit, marking him a man out of time in the burgeoning corporate environment of the 1970s. Well liked in Canada (amongst other philanthropic endeavours he helped fund the construction of the Trillium Health Centre, Sanders was more bullish in America. He would personally visit random KFC locations and if service and food were not up to his high standards, he would have their franchise licence revoked. Sanders had over time developed that mythical blend of 11 herbs and spices, the now discarded pressure-cooking process, and most importantly the desire to serve diners' chicken fresh, not frozen.

When Pepsico acquired the Canadian Kentucky Fried Chicken Scott's chain in 1987, global brand uniformity was swiftly implemented and the legacy of dirty bird was cast. In the vacuum created by Sander's absence, gimmicks (Oppee), imitation (Nuggets) and heart attack snacks became the norm, culminating in the Double Down sandwich, an ultimate carny styled glut of empty calories and salt that would make even Chris Farley types think twice.

It wasn't always so bleak. Admitted fried chicken fiend Dan Aykroyd (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000101/) made sure the Colonel's chicken got lots of free product placement in his very first film, the dreary but cheery love story Love at First Sight (1977), which also featured a totally bizarre yet strangely fitting cameo from Sanders himself milling around Niagara Falls.

A recent survey from that stalwart of journalistic integrity USA Today revealed that 61% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 do not know who the bespectacled, goateed old boy on the KFC logo is. Considering that parent company Yum Brands Inc., have claimed in the past that their initials stand for Kitchen Fresh Chicken, who can blame them?

KFC TorontoRetrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.

Discussion

34 Comments

Honey BooBoo / October 12, 2012 at 09:16 am
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I know what I'm having for lunch! yummmm....
Sean / October 12, 2012 at 09:27 am
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I remember going to this original Scott's in Mississauga as a kid (now a Mr. Sub):
http://goo.gl/maps/ijZup
McRib / October 12, 2012 at 09:32 am
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interesting! i had no idea the Colonel lived in Canada, nor about any of his philanthropy.

KFC is horrible now, but i did enjoy it as a kid when it was real. It seems the Colonel wouldn't have stood for the shit they produce today, good for him.
905 replying to a comment from Sean / October 12, 2012 at 09:33 am
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Oh man...i remember that place too!!!
Such a seedy part of town though!
Todd Toronto / October 12, 2012 at 10:20 am
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Where are the Scott's Chicken Villas these days? I know there's one in Niagara Falls, but where are the others?
Colchester / October 12, 2012 at 10:43 am
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And I'll never forget the "Singing River Beans". Yes, that's what they called their baked beans back, I think, in the 60s.
John replying to a comment from Sean / October 12, 2012 at 10:43 am
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That looks more like an old Red Barn.
Sole / October 12, 2012 at 10:46 am
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Popeyes for the win
Daniel replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 12, 2012 at 11:02 am
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I've seen one KFC-Scott's Chicken Villa building in Markham (Highway 7 just off Main Street/Markham Road), and another here in Whitby along Highway 2...
Jacob replying to a comment from McRib / October 12, 2012 at 11:08 am
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I didn't know that either. And Mississauga, of all places.

I knew about Scott's Chicken Villa, though, and I'm glad they've kept some of them intact.

KFC, as a chain, really needs to be torn down from top to bottom and be completely reimagined.
W. K. Lis / October 12, 2012 at 11:26 am
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Popeye's chicken is now better the KFC.
Blair / October 12, 2012 at 11:30 am
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If you want good old-school, KFC-style, pressure-cooked chicken, you MUST make a trip to Chick-N-Joy at Queen and Woodfield (between Greenwood and Coxwell) in Toronto. Juicy, crispy and not nearly as salty as the dirty bird. Oh yeah, cheaper too.
Kevin / October 12, 2012 at 11:35 am
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The Colonel was a long time resident of Port Credit, hence his donation to start the Colonel Harland Saudners Kidz Clinic at Trillium. Who remembers the Scott's at Shopper's World in Brampton during the late 70's with the all you can eat buffet and Bruce Posgate, the magician the kept kids entertained every weekend
kevin / October 12, 2012 at 11:37 am
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Does anyone else remember that yummy buttermilk bread slices they used to have.....I miss those!
Joe / October 12, 2012 at 11:47 am
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The buttermilk bread was good, but I never understood why they didn't have the greasy biscuit like in the US
Kim / October 12, 2012 at 11:52 am
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Mayor Ford should be the new face of KFC
Chris / October 12, 2012 at 11:58 am
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Does anyone know where he lived in Mississauga? I've heard it was off Lakeshore in between Lorne Park and Clarkson. Is there still a KFC beside Dairy Queen on Lakeshore just East of Clarkson Rd?
iSkyscraper / October 12, 2012 at 01:00 pm
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I just checked google maps to see if the Scott's Chicken Villa was still as I remembered it in Gravenhurst, but alas it looks like a modern KFC must have replaced it a few years ago.

http://goo.gl/maps/rLu4V

It is rather hilarious that Google's auto-privacy software blurred the Colonel's face!
tizzle replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / October 12, 2012 at 01:05 pm
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Ha ha that is classic. Harland Sanders would have use his walking stick to put a kentucky fried beat down on the worthless ceos who wrecked his magical chicken.
Seymour / October 12, 2012 at 01:16 pm
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reminded me of Ghost World and Enid's found piece about the original fried chicken. pretty sweet little movie, by the way.
McRib replying to a comment from Blair / October 12, 2012 at 01:19 pm
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yeah i've eaten there a few times, good chicken. good prices too.
BJC / October 12, 2012 at 07:19 pm
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I believe this was the first KFC/Scott's in Canada and is still there today. Victoria Park and Lawrence area...
http://goo.gl/maps/WGgwT
Ling Gu / October 12, 2012 at 10:49 pm
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I miss the Colonel! Going out to pick up a bucket right now!
Dammacx / October 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm
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I pretty much gave up on KFC when they changed the fries from those nice thick steak cut fries. Nice and crispy on the outside and soft and potato like on the inside. When they switched to try and be crispy like McD they ruiend them. I don't know what they coat them in but it is really gross.
Col. replying to a comment from McRib / October 13, 2012 at 12:20 am
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His trust has also donated millions of $$ to U of T and continues to do so.

Terrence Donnelly has given his entire fortune to the Faculty of Medicine.
http://tdccbr.med.utoronto.ca/about_us/terrence_donnelly.html
mark replying to a comment from Sean / October 13, 2012 at 09:53 am
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That Dundas st "barn" was the Red Barn restaurant. Not Scott's
FattyQ replying to a comment from Dammacx / October 15, 2012 at 09:26 am
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Thank you Dammacx! It was when they changed the awesome fries we should have known it was the beginning of the end. No one ever remembers the old fries! Smh
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 16, 2012 at 06:28 am
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They're obviously all KFC places now, or gone.
Gul Jassad replying to a comment from Seymour / October 16, 2012 at 06:31 am
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Crappy movie, with a stupid lazy bitch who needed to get her act together and her ass in gear, but can't because she's too full of herself to do so. And feminists consider her a modern heroine? While bashing Scott Pilgrim? At least Scott realized his errors and tries to fix them-she doesn't even try.
Scott / January 1, 2013 at 07:54 am
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In 1973, I climbed up the Kentucky Fried Chicken pole in Rexdale Ontario and I made it to the top and... fell in. The fire dept had to rescue me. True story.
B replying to a comment from Scott / March 22, 2013 at 01:23 am
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too funny Scott, lol
Al / May 7, 2013 at 01:52 pm
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Back in the 1970's I was assistant manager of store #210 in Perth Ontario. Little did I know or even appreciate back then the first class training I was going thru in restaurant business management. They gave me a solid foundation that would benefit me long after I had left the company, and that I still refer to when making business decisions today.
My hat is off to Lloyd Parsons, Jerry Keating, Jack Tooley, Mr. Berger and others that I was privileged to be associated with.
I will never forget my days with Scotts.
Coo1 / December 3, 2013 at 10:48 am
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I miss Scott's Chicken Villa. I distinctly remember that it was a higher quality product. The chicken was of higher quality. And the fries were the real deal.

Until I read this article today it finally validated why I reject going to KFC, which is because I can tell the different in chicken and obviously the fries. Basically YumInc/PepsiCo are simply using the seasoning BUT I don't think they are using fresh chicken, otherwise the fries are nonsense.

Luckily we have Chick-N-Joy here is Toronto in the Leslieville area. Too me it is exactly what I use to eat at Scott's Chicken Villa - quality of chicken, flavour, and fries, gravy, and coleslaw.

Does anyone know if there are any Scott's Chicken Villa around in the Southern Ontario region?
John Shepherd / February 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm
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I spent most of my life with Scott's and Scott's Chicken Villas. I still have burn marks on my arms from the deep fry pressure cookers. I looked after the Employee Relations for many years. Great people, great friends

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