John Sobeck
Founder and Former Chairman of the Board 1956-2016


Iola Sobeck
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Treasurer

John Sobeck co-founded Chicken Shack along with his wife Iola and sat as the Chairman of the Board before passing away in 2016. Iola currently sits as the Treasurer and Chairman of the Board.

Iola was born in Madison Heights, Michigan in 1928. John was born in Windber, Pennsylvania in 1923.

As a child, John grew up on the farm and worked as a coal miner. Later he enlisted in the Navy and fought in WWII. After the war, he and a buddy, Andy, wanted to move from Pennsylvania but had trouble deciding where to live. John wanted to go to Cleveland and Andy wanted to go to Detroit. They flipped a coin and John lost so they both headed to Detroit.

In Detroit, John got a job working in tool and die at Briggs Manufacturing. While working he rented a room from the Jesswein family. One of the Jesswein daughters, Iola, was working as secretary to the superintendent of schools. The two met in 1946 and became good friends.

John noticed that many men were being laid off with 20+years experience and he decided to leave the tool and die job and go into business for himself. And After months of dating, John and Iola decided to marry in 1947.

They built their first business, J & J Ice Cream in Lexington Michigan in 1947 on their honeymoon. After years in the frozen custard business, the Sobeck’s wanted less seasonal business. In 1956, John first experienced Broasted® chicken. The second he tasted the food, he knew he could make something with this new Broasted® technology. (The Broasting® Process enable the chicken to be cooked under pressure and essentially allows the chicken to cook in its own juices.)

On June 6, 1956, after 41 days of construction, John and Iola Sobeck opened their first Chicken Shack, in Royal Oak, Michigan. Over the years, John developed many secret recipes, marinades and sauces that are the backbone of Chicken Shack’s success.

To commemorate its 50th and 60th anniversaries – Chicken Shack rolled back prices on their four piece chicken dinner to the original price of $1.45. People lined up around the block to get this special one day deal and the chain sold a weeks worth of food in one day! Supplies were limited to one dinner per person, so families brought their loved ones to Chicken Shack to help celebrate these milestone anniversaries.