Our History

In 1967 Jerry and Marcelle Bear purchased the Larkin Avenue restaurant from McDonald’s Corporation. Nothing more than a walk-up window with seating for four, they managed the restaurant themselves with only 18 employees on staff. McDonald’s biggest selling and most successful sandwich, the Big Mac®, did not yet exist, and the Golden Arches stood out across the street from Larkin High School as the only neighbor.

In those early days, sales were so low it necessitated that Jerry and Marcelle Bear scheduled themselves to work positions such as taking orders at the front counter, making McDonald’s world famous french fries, and grilling hamburgers in the kitchen. As sales grew, it was not uncommon to see either one of them on a ladder changing the numbers on the “Over ____ Million Served”  roadway sign.

Through hard work, unwavering determination, and a commitment to their community, sales started to increase. Two years later, in 1969, Jerry and Marcelle Bear purchased their second McDonald’s franchise on Summit Street. In order to build the market, the Bear’s absorbed themselves in the Elgin community. They served on virtually every non-profit board, were active in the PTO’s, engaged with the spiritual community and actively participated in the Chamber of Commerce activities. It would be nine years before they acquired another restaurant. Then in 1978, they opened the Streamwood McDonald’s. Three years short of another decade, Jerry and Marcelle Bear built and opened a brand new McDonald’s in Evanston, at the Orrington Hotel. (With the significant change in the economic climate in Evanston, and after 18.5 years in operation, the Bear Family made its final sale at the Evanston Restaurant on October 31, 2003.) During the 90’s decade, the Bear Family built and opened five brand new McDonald’s restaurants throughout the greater Elgin area.

David Bear, born and raised in the McDonald’s system, was mixing shakes at five years of age at the Larkin Avenue restaurant. As a teen, he worked the cash registers and cooked hamburgers on the grills. Although he spent many hours in the restaurants, Jerry and Marcelle were very supportive of growing the family into the business, although David ever intended on making a career for himself with McDonald’s. David, initially had his mind set on a career in medicine.  He changed that pursuit and graduated from Northwestern in 1990 with a Bachelor of the Arts Degree, majoring in Economics. After a long conversation with his parents, David decided to forego an opportunity in the investment banking industry and join his parents in the family business.  

Between 2012 and 2016, Jerry and Marcelle started to hang up their spatulas. David Bear started his own legacy within Bear Family Restaurants, by owning and operating 5 of the restaurants. Since 2012, David has grown the Bear Family Restaurants organization to 35 McDonald’s locations in over 20 communities. See all of our locations.

Through this tremendous growth, David Bear is proud to employ over 1,500 people and offer career advancement opportunities for his team members, which are more like family. Over the last decade, the organization has added a Vice President, several Director level positions, and much more. Being able to provide opportunities to people, whether it’s someone’s first job in the workforce or a final career destination, all while building the brand, is really where his passion lies.

The Bear Family is committed to being a socially responsible and engaged member of every community that their restaurants serve.  They host dozens of McTeacher nights, provide tens of thousands of dollars back to their local social service agencies and contribute hundreds of hours of volunteer time each year. They are the recipients of multiple awards for community service including the 2013 Illinois Family Business of the Year for Community Service. Read more about our community support.

The Family has a mission to Impress Every Guest. When people visit a Bear Family McDonald’s Restaurant they will experience a difference by always being greeted with a smile, being treated with respect and feeling a genuine sense of appreciation. This all starts with our amazing employees, in which we treat like family. We offer some amazing benefits for everyone that joins our family. Find out more about our benefits.