Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Dixon's Famous Chili: A Woman-Owned, Fourth Generation, Family Business Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Dixon's Famous Chili: A Woman-Owned, Fourth Generation, Family Business Case Study

Article excerpt

CASE DESCRIPTION

Dixon's Famous Chili is the oldest, continuously operating, family owned restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. From Dixon's beginning in the early 1900's, women have played pivotal roles, including owners in three out of four generations. The societal pressures and life events that impacted these women and their families are presented to exemplify the struggles women have faced when operating a small business. The case begins and ends in the present day with the current owner facing divorce, raising three school aged children, and having no means of support except the failing family restaurant. Teaching note and references reviewed.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Dixon's Famous Chili is the oldest, continuously operating, family owned restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. From Dixon's beginning in the early 1900's, women have played pivotal roles, including owners in three out of four generations. The societal pressures and life events that impacted these women and their families are presented to exemplify the struggles women have faced when operating a small business. The case begins and ends in the present day with the current owner facing divorce, raising three school aged children, and having no means of support except the failing family restaurant.

The teaching note uses current research on both woman-owned and family-owned small businesses to present a real world context for theory and model application. The teaching note is easily applied to either entry level undergraduate, upper level undergraduate or graduate classes. The teaching note also offers various combinations of theory, models and discussion points to bring the theoretical into a real world context. Practitioners and students enjoy seeing the relevancy of their studies and in turn, the impact of entrepreneurial decisions.

Case studies in both a woman-owned and family business context are increasing, but are still rare. The examples set by the three generations of women in the Dixon's Famous Chili case study are powerful, not only for aspiring women entrepreneurs, but for men as well to understand the dynamics of marriage, family and partnership.

The women, men and families in the Dixon's Famous Chili case faced real world situations that can be seen and understood with the use of entrepreneurial and small business theory providing students a bridge between their course work and their future.

INTRODUCTION

Kansas City, Missouri's oldest family owned restaurant was going to close; it was inevitable. The new owner was a freshly divorced, single mother with three school age children and no business experience. Her only asset was a business that was pest infested, in debt and without suppliers. The third generation to own Dixon's Famous Chili was doomed to be the last. As the owner looked at the young faces of the fourth generation, she realized she would pass nothing of the family legacy down to them except memories. Was there any way to save her self, her family and her family legacy?

FOUNDING HISTORY

Vergne Dixon started selling chili out of a cart in the early 1900's in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The business and recipe were little more than a hobby and a passing curiosity for both owner and client. The uniqueness, however, soon settled into a regular money making business and a permanent location was soon a goal. By 1919, Dixon's Chili was located in a permanent building in downtown Kansas City. Interestingly, all the waiters were male due to a unique hiring system; Vergne hired recently paroled convicts and the homeless as labor, paying them in food. And so another unique feature of Dixon's came to be. The men were so moved by Uncle Vergne's support that many worked for decades after Uncle Vergne's death in 1963, with the last parolee retiring from Dixon's in the early 1980s.

During the lunch hour, the busiest time for Dixon's, Aunt Lela took all the cash home. …

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