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Photo by Karen Brune Mathis - David Stein was a founder of the Jewish Community Alliance at 8505 San Jose Blvd. It features his name.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 26, 201212:00 PM EST

First Coast Success: David Stein, investor, philanthropist


David Stein is a Jacksonville entrepreneur, business owner and philanthropist.

He grew up in Jacksonville and his first job was at his father's Burger King restaurant along Beach Boulevard. That's before Burger King became a national chain.

Stein's family helped launch the chain and he then formed a company, King Provision Corp., to provide supplies to the restaurants.

Stein, 73, continues in the restaurant business. In 1990, he co-founded the T.L. Cannon Companies, which owns Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants in much of the state of New York and most of Connecticut.

Stein also is a philanthropist. His extensive support in the community includes his founding of the Jewish Community Alliance, his support of the Greenwood School for students with learning differences and his $2 million scholarship endowment at the University of North Florida.

He is president of The David A. Stein Family Foundation Inc., whose directors include his daughters, Tracey and Allison, and his wife, Linda.

The Daily Record interviewed Stein for "First Coast Success," a regular segment on the award-winning 89.9 FM flagship First Coast Connect program, hosted by Melissa Ross.

The interview is scheduled for broadcast this morning and the replay will be at 8 p.m. on the WJCT Arts Channel or online at

The following are edited excerpts from the full transcript.

Talk about the start of Burger King and your family's role in that.

My father invested with some people here in Burger King when it first started. In fact, the very first Burger King in the world was here in Jacksonville on Beach Boulevard and I worked there as a 16-year-old kid.

Burger King (was) started by a guy from California who wanted to sell equipment. He invented a broiler and a shake machine and the people who my father invested with had gotten the state of Florida for this franchise. And his machinery was a disaster. Burger King was so bad to start with it was absolutely scary.

At a very young age, I dropped out of college and went to work for Burger King. At that time, the people who we had franchised in Miami reinvented the system that is successful today and I looked at that and said, I can do this. And that was my start. So I copied them and worked very hard, was in it for over 40 years, very successful.

Talk about King Provision Corp.

We had our own distribution company from Day One, just serving our stores here. About 1982, I saw an opportunity to do Burger Kings all over the Southeast. And I did that, built a very big company, very quickly, right away. We sold it to a big company in 2006, so that was 25 years of big distribution.

You have a history of growing companies. Where does that come from?

That comes from having a vision, working hard and mostly from attracting good people.

How do you attract good people?

I think I was born with that ability.

What would you say some of the secrets are to finding good people? What is it that you see in a person that makes you say 'I have to have that person on my team'?

It's just something that I see. I speak to them and like their reactions to certain things and, knock on wood, I've been very, very good at that. That is my key to my success.

You also own Applebee's restaurants. How did that come about?

My partner who was an executive with Burger King wanted to not work for somebody else and go out on his own. He contacted me and we said we would get the Applebee's franchise and we did for New York state, not counting New York City, when it first started about 22 years ago.

You must really have an affinity for the restaurant business.

No, I think I was really born into that, as a business that I had to work with. I did well at it, but it wasn't the love of food. It was a business and picking the right people and doing the right things.

You grew up in Jacksonville. Talk about that.

Born and raised in Jacksonville. I lived in the same ZIP code my whole life. And I just love it. I love it. I know you'll ask me about my philanthropy, but I worked hard here, I did well here and I give back here. That is something I love to do and I've been pretty good at it.

What is your philanthropic philosophy?

It's giving back. It's absolutely giving back. It's a place I have lived my whole life and done well. I am involved in a lot of different things here, and seeing them succeed and helping them succeed makes me very happy.

What are some of your major investments in giving back?

One of the most major is the Jewish Community Alliance. I was very instrumental in getting that started 25 years ago. It says Jewish but it is the Southside community center, paid for mostly by Jewish people. And it is spectacular, one of the best in the country.

Once again, it's my ability to pick management. I got the best director in the country.

The other home run I had is my involvement with the Greenwood School. I got my Ph.D. in ADD (attention deficit disorder). That is why I love it. That's not just 200 kids, (it's) 200 families. It is just so successful. I just beam every time I walk through it.

What is the mission and philosophy of Greenwood School?

It is to take kids, who are very bright, but they do have ADD, they do have a problem learning differently, and Greenwood adjusts to their differences. A lot of these kids are bullied in schools and not treated well, and at Greenwood School, they are home. They love it and it's just a pleasure.

You are able to see a need or an opportunity for community involvement. How do you do that?

I do it with my energy, my money. I support a whole lot of things here. I see where my energy can make a difference. And I get very involved in it.

You have a lot of energy.

I seem to. That's the ADD.

You talked about a Ph.D. in ADD. What does that mean?

The inability to concentrate, really. There are a lot of us in the world that are very successful. Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab, I mean this is not a rare problem. But our energy just goes in a different way.

You have been able to channel a different energy into a lot of community support and to do very well.

Yes, and it has been fun.

Talk about The David A. Stein Family Foundation.

It's money that I have made and contributed to my foundation so that I can give back to the things that I am interested in and that's what we do. Almost 100 percent of that money stays right here in Jacksonville. That is where I made the money and that is where it stays.

What is your secret to success?

I think people. I think people, and my ADD energy.

You grew up in Jacksonville. Your brother was Martin Stein, and he has been known for the creation of Regency Square Mall and Regency Centers Corp. Have you been involved in that?

Just through love. I was a stockholder through Regency Centers but very close to that family and just watched them the whole way.

Did you have a big family growing up?

No, I had two older brothers, my brother Martin and my brother Albert. Both are gone.

Growing up, what did you think you wanted to be?

I had no thought whatsoever. None.

How did you end up where you did?

Well, the Burger King thing I lucked into because it was so bad. And I was able to make something. Planning was not part of me.

Is planning part of it now?

Just planning on how I am going to make Jacksonville better and give some more money away.

What do you want to do next? What do you see that Jacksonville needs?

Well, certainly education. I'm very involved in that. I'm trying to raise some money and make education here in Jacksonville better.

You have scholarship endowments at the University of North Florida.

It is wonderful. I have 20 scholarship students as a rule. And I get very involved with them. We do four things a year together. We have a retreat so that the new students meet the old ones. I take them to something civic, like the mayor's office or the sheriff's office and the jail or the zoo, so they can see how the city works. Then we do something charitable. And then we have a Christmas party. So, I've been doing this for 11 years now.

How are those scholarship recipients chosen?

Totally by the university, I have nothing to do with that.

What motivates you?

Making a difference. That's important.

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