Obituary: John Galardi |

Obituary: John Galardi

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Wienerschnitzel Founder, John Galardi

John Galardi, founder of Galardi Group, parent company of Wienerschnitzel, the Original Hamburger Stand and TasteeFreez, passed away of pancreatic cancer on April 13, 2013. He was 75.

John opened the first Wienerschnitzel in 1961 at the age of 23. Over the past 52 years, Galardi has guided Wienerschnitzel from a single location to the world’s largest hot dog chain, operating 350 locations and selling more than 120 million hot dogs annually. The company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. Growing up in Kansas City, MO, John was a man of humble beginnings. At 19, he moved to California with his parents and brother and landed his first job working for Glen Bell Jr. at hisTaco Tia restaurant(later to become Taco Bell) in Pasadena, Calif.

After gaining a few years of quick service restaurant experience, John’s entrepreneurial spirit took hold. While chicken, tacos and hamburgers were in fierce competition, Johncarved out his own niche when he opened the first “Der Wienerschnitzel” in 1961 in Wilmington, Calif. Along with a bargain hot dog, John was also best known for his world-famous, secret-recipe chili.

“He was a man of great integrity and possessed strong values that he incorporated in everything hedid both personally and in business,” said Cindy Galardi Culpepper, John’s ex-wife who now serves as chairperson of Galardi Group, Inc. “John often said that he never worked a day in his life, because if you’re doing what you love, it isn’t work.”

A focused businessman, John expanded Galardi Group into a multi-branded company with the launch of the Original Hamburger Stand concept in 1983, the acquisition of the popular soft-serve brand TasteeFreez in 2003, and the new fast-casual Mexican concept, Two Madres, scheduled to launch in summer 2013. The consummate entrepreneur, John dabbled in everything from bakeries and Japanese restaurants, to photo developing and physical therapy facilities.

“Since it all began in 1961, he has touched countless lives through his generosity as a business leader, opening doors and presenting opportunities for us all to build his vision into the successful company it is today,” said Dennis Tase, Galardi Group president & COO.

In founding Wienerschnitzel, John built a brand representative of a time when life was simpler, a brand that holds a special place in the hearts of so many families across America. He will be deeply missed but his legacy will forever live on.

John’s wife, Judane, shared, “John was the love of my life, my dream come true.” John Galardi is survived by his wife, Judane, four children, a grandson, and an extended family of countless people who he’s affected throughout his life.

In lieu of flowers, the Galardi family is requesting that donations be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

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