Part of the reason Brown sold KFC was because he wanted to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. But after a favorite Republican candidate received his party's nomination, he thought it might be best to wait a while. To bide his time, Brown used part of the profits from the sale of KFC and bought a fledgling Texas chain called Lum's, known mainly for its beer-braised hot dogs. Brown knew he couldn't rely on the masses to flock to Lum's for hot dogs alone, so he decided to add something else, namely a burger that would be the beef-patty equivalent of Sanders Original Recipe chicken. And so, according to Time magazine, he "recruited a platoon of young executives and told them to scour the country until they found the perfect hamburger."
Around the same time his troops were deployed to find a burger for Lum's, Brown and his family traveled to Aspen, Colorado, for a ski trip. As they took a lift to the top of the mountain, Brown told me in an interview last year, he spotted a small trolley down below, selling popcorn. That trolley, he said, triggered something: a memory of the trolleys that used to navigate the streets of his hometown of Louisville when he was a child.
"Well, it was just sort of cute," he said.
He decided that, along with selling burgers at Lum's, he'd also sell them from small, replica trolley cars. There'd be no seating inside, only takeout, just like the popcorn stand. He figured it could be the kind of place men pop by at lunchtime for a sack of burgers to take back to the factory, a place moms pull in to grab dinner for the kids.
Not long after, Brown's platoon reached South Beach, found Ollie's Sandwich Shop, and declared their mission accomplished. They said Gleichenhaus's burger—a third of a pound of lean beef seasoned with a blend of 32 spices — seemed destined to be a sure-fire hit, not unlike the Colonel's spicy chicken. After hearing about the Ollieburger, Brown flew to Miami to try one himself and knew right away it was the one. In fact, when we spoke, he remembered eating four of them in one sitting. That the man who'd created them had a name that rhymed with "trolley" was almost too much, serendipity verging on the miraculous.
But there was a catch. Gleichenhaus was irascible. According to Ozersky's book "Colonel Sanders and the American Dream," Gleichenhaus called Brown a "slick-talking sonofabitch" when he first broached the idea of buying him out. After Brown offered Gleichenhaus $1 million for his recipe, suggesting that he could turn him into the next Colonel Sanders, the burger-maker was unimpressed. According to a 1976 story in the Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent, his response was resolute.
"I told him we was doing just fine," Gleichenhaus said, "and he could get the hell outta my store."