Don Callender

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Don Callender
Donald W. Callender

(1927-09-27)September 27, 1927
DiedJanuary 9, 2009(2009-01-09) (aged 81)
Alma materLong Beach Poly High School
Known forMarie Callender's restaurants
Spouse(s)Katy Callender,
Patricia (first, divorce)
Children2 sons, 1 daughter
Parent(s)Cal Warren Callender
Marie Callender (1907–1995)

Don Callender (September 27, 1927 – January 7, 2009)[1] was an American restaurateur and co-founder of the Marie Callender's chain of restaurants, which originated in southern California.[2][3] He also was behind Babe's Slim Pign's in Redlands, P.H. Woods in Moreno Valley, Top-Gun Restaurant Grill, and Babe's Bar-B-Que & Brewery in Rancho Mirage.

Callender is credited as the first restaurateur to offer franchise operations, with the first Marie Callender's franchisee opening 55 years ago in Orange in 1964.[4][5]


In the 1930s, Marie Callender (1907–1995), her husband Cal Warren Callender, and their only child, Don lived in a humble trailer park off Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. Marie baked and sold pies to augment the family's meager income, with little Don delivering her pies to customers on his bicycle. A 1945 graduate of Long Beach Poly High School, he joined the Merchant Marine for a brief tour at the end of World War II and then returned home to southern California.[3]

By 1948, entrepreneurial and intrepid twenty-one year old Don, was already working to expand the business into a wholesale outlet by selling his pies to other restaurants in Orange County. Eventually, Don ventured into the retail realm, opening his first outlet in Orange (at 574 N. Tustin St.) and naming it after his mother, Marie.[5] With continued experimentation, he gradually expanded his inventory and added other menu items which would later become iconic Marie Callender fare.

The interiors, of the chain's earlier restaurants were filled with American antiques and bric-a-brac, circa 1900, evoking the familiar comfort of 'grandma's house,' and a strong Norman Rockwell theme reminiscent of a simpler, more wholesome America. In later years, the restaurants boasted a fully stocked bar, serving alcoholic beverages, and a full salad bar featuring a sneeze guard, a novelty at that time.

By the time Don Callender had sold the company in 1986 to Ramada for a reported $80 million, the chain had grown to 120 locations nationwide.[6] Rejuvenated by the sale, Don, not only remained in the restaurant industry, but embarked on his most ambitious venture to date at that time. His final restaurant project was to be a second, gigantic 21,000 square foot (1950 square meter) Babe's in Indio, California. Unfortunately, health issues forced Callender out of the project before seeing this latest brainchild come to full fruition. The building was subsequently leased to Kaiser Restaurant Group, a local restaurant management consortium. Jackelope Ranch opened the day after Don passed, as an eclectic Southwestern-themed barbecue.

Marie Callender company history[edit]

In 1994, Don sold the Marie Callender chain to Ramada Inn, who subsequently sold to Wilshire Restaurant Group, Inc. in 2000. Marie Callender Pie Shops, Inc. was purchased from Saunders Karp & Megrue (SKM)[7] in 1999 by an affiliate of Castle Harlan, a New York-based private equity firm for $150 million. In 2006, Castle Harlan merged Marie Callender's with another of its interests, Perkins Family Restaurants. The combined chain, known as Perkins & Marie Callender's Inc. is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Other CEOs of Marie Callender's following Don Callender included attorney/investor Roger Mercier (1989-1993), former IBM executive Walter F. Strycker (1993-1994), restaurant finance guru Leonard H. Dreyer (1994-2001) and casual chain executive Phillip Ratner (2001-2006).


Callender died at age 81 in 2009 at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, due to complications resulting from head trauma sustained during a fall at his home over a year earlier.[2][3][8] He was survived by his second wife of 31 years, Katy Callender and youngest son Lucky (Donald) Callender, in addition to his adult children from his first marriage to Patricia: second daughter Cathe Callender, son-in-law Greg Sprunk; eldest son Glen Warren, daughter-in-law Coral Callender; son-in-law Stephen Winters; and grandchildren, Harmony Callender, Jasmine Winters, Maxx Buchanan, Caitlyn and Cameron Sprunk.


  1. ^ Social Security Death Index
  2. ^ a b Noland, Claire (January 11, 2009). "Don Callender, who turned his mom's pie shop in to the Marie Callender's chain, dies at 81". Los Angeles Times. (obituary). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Hanson, Kristopher (January 10, 2009). "Poly High grad, who made his mom's pies famous, dies at 81". Long Beach Press-Telegram. (California). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  4. ^ Luna, Nancy (January 9, 2009). "Marie Callender's founder remembered as innovator". Orange County Register. (California). Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Luna, Nancy (June 6, 2016). "End of an era: Marie Callender's closes first restaurant". Orange County Register. (California). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Hernandez, Greg (November 16, 1999). "Marie Callender's sold for $150 million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Marie Callender's founder, Don Callender, dies

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