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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Fast-food franchisee had work ethic

FINDLAY - Michael Kentris, 83, a franchisee of fast-food restaurants in northwest Ohio since the early 1960s, died of cancer Tuesday in his home here.

Most recently, Mr. Kentris was a franchisee and vice president of K-K Restaurants Inc., with Taco Bell outlets across the region - from Bluffton to Perrysburg and from Defiance and Wauseon to Bowling Green. He went to the office regularly.

"He'd like to visit the restaurants and see all the people and come to the managers' meetings," said his son George, a franchisee and general counsel and secretary-treasurer of K-K Restaurants.

Mr. Kentris was a Taco Bell franchisee since 1982, and received awards for franchise leadership and management.

He also was a Choice Hotels franchisee, operating Comfort Inns in Bluffton and Fremont.

Mr. Kentris owned and operated Burger Chef restaurants in Findlay, Fostoria, Tiffin, and Toledo from 1962 to 1974. His first taste of business ownership came when he left a management-track job at Ford Motor Co. to open a gas station in Cleveland. He became a manager of Atlas Crankshaft in Fostoria in 1959, but left to become his own boss at Burger Chef.

"It was that entrepreneurial spirit," his son said. "It was the American dream. He was the son of Greek immigrants, and he wanted to be in business.

"He loved people," his son said. "He probably had thousands of people work for him over the years. He always had a good impact on them: He taught them about responsibility and instilled in them a significant work ethic."

The Burger Chef chain fell on hard times in the early 1970s, and he lost everything, his son said. For about six years, Mr. Kentris "did anything he could to make a living," which included making pizzas in a local tavern. He learned of franchise possibilities at Taco Bell while working at a Taco Bell in Findlay.

Mr. Kentris was a member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Toledo.

He was a Mason and a member of the Zenobia Shrine in Toledo. He was a past president of the Fostoria Kiwanis and was a member of the Fostoria Lions Club and the Hancock County Republican Club.

"He always wanted to be a good corporate citizen," his son said.

Mr. Kentris was born in Ecorse, Mich., and studied at Lawrence Institute of Technology. He was a Navy veteran of World War II. Mr. Kentris attended Taco Bell conventions and regional meetings around the country. He and his companion, Wilma Abbott, spent their free time at their place in Clearwater, Fla.

"They were inseparable the last two years," his son said.

Mr. Kentris and his wife, Mary, married June 27, 1943. She died May 29, 1999.

Surviving are his daughter, Alexandra Wolph; sons, Dr. Nicholas, George, and Dr. William Kentris; sisters, Alexandra Sarris, Maria Yatros, and Evelyn Jones; brothers, Steve and James Kentris; 13 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Hoening Mortuary, Fostoria, where the body will be after 1 p.m. today, with a Trisagion prayer service at 3:30 p.m. and a Masonic service at 7 p.m. in the funeral home.

The family suggests tributes to the Kentris Memorial Scholarship Fund.



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