Apr. 15—For the DiMichele family, buying the two Logansport McDonald's franchises — along with 10 others in Indiana — is a return home.
The father, Dean DiMichele got his start in McDonald's in Northwest Indiana before moving to St. Louis in 1988 to eventually own five and then to Little Rock for the last 16 years to own another five.
Besides buying the McDonald's franchises from Mark and Patricia Hammons in Logansport, Delphi, Monticello, and West Lafayette, they acquired ones from other owner/operators who saw a retirement opportunity as COVID-19 social restrictions went into place.
There's one in Bluffton, two in Fort Wayne, one in Hartford City, one in Portland and three in Marion.
"It was a business opportunity and a chance to move back closer to family," said Nicole DiMichele, Dean's daughter.
They resettled into Indiana in December and officially became owners/operators of the Hammons family's restaurants on Jan. 13.
The Hammons' were the first restaurants the DiMichele family had heard about.
"They were very loved in the community. We know we have big shoes to fill," Nicole said.
The Hammons family had bought the two Logansport restaurants in 2000, moving here from the Chicago area to raise their children in a smaller, safer town.
By that time, Patricia Hammons had worked about 20 years for the McDonald's Corporation, starting as a crew member in Swanton, Ohio, and reaching up to an executive-level employee responsible for 25 operators and more than 100 restaurants within the Chicago area.
Mark Hammons left a medical field job to become an owner/operator.
Six years after coming to Logansport, they bought the McDonald's in Delphi followed by the one in Monticello in 2007, later buying one in West Lafayette.
The couple had said in January that it would be hard to leave their employees, who'd become like family.
Nicole DiMichele said that her family is also close to employees and "people are our number one priority."
When they bought the Indiana stores, they kept all the employees.
"Our goal was not to come in and change everything," she said. "They were running well to begin with."
"We're just focusing on our training and operations," she added.
They also like to promote from within.
"Some of my favorite success stories are people that started with us," she said
For those wanting a career, the ultimate goal is for the DiMicheles to get them in at McDonald's "Hamburger University" in Chicago for leadership and management positions.
"Fewer people get into Hamburger University than Harvard," she said. "it's where we send people to become leaders."
In St. Louis, The family also had employees who went on to become owner/operators.
The family will also support the community through the restaurants, as it has always done.
Their businesses have regularly raised money for the Ronald McDonald House and helped out with local schools, churches and police and fire departments.
"We've got to support the community if we want the community to support us," she said.
It's not just financial support.
When the Logansport ladies basketball team went to state earlier this year, the signs at the Logansport McDonald's congratulated them.
Although she was born in Lake County, she grew up in St. Louis after her father bought his first McDonald's franchise — in a St. Louis hospital — the year she was born.
"It was a small little restaurant, but it got his foot in the door," she said.
Becoming an owner/operator was also the logical next step in Dean's career, having started in Lake County in McDonald's registered applicant program and having managed stores.
He built that first restaurant up to five in St. Louis and then moved to Arkansas for the better opportunity there.
Dean DiMichele said, "McDonald's gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream and become an owner/operator, and now I'm thrilled to be able to continue in that role alongside my children."
Chad and Nicole have been working in the company for a while.
"From playing with Happy Meal toys to learning how to count money in the drive-thru, I've loved growing up in the business and am excited for this next step," said Nicole. "The three of us, we're a great team, and it's a great family business."
Because all of their new 12 McDonald's were owned by four different owner/operators, it was a struggle
"It was like putting a big puzzle together," she said.
"It's a big misconception to a lot of people," she said. "People see the golden arches and the restaurant and think it's a corporation."
There was also a matter of keeping things going through the pandemic and sale, and Nicole worked with the teams, often alongside them.
"I wanted them to know I was there with them," she said.
Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at email@example.com or