Bill Simon, co-founder, president and CEO of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers passed away December 17 after a battle with cancer. He was 61. Simon is survived by his wife, Sally, their five adult children, and one grandson, along with his parents, three brothers, one sister, and a large extended family.
Simon credited much of his professional success to his father, Freddy, who encouraged him at an early age to pursue his entrepreneurial interests by mowing yards and gardening, and manufacturing and selling landscaping fixtures. Always an eager learner and an accomplished student, Simon graduated with an accounting degree from Kansas State University and then worked for a national CPA firm in his hometown of Wichita. Within a few years, he was presented an opportunity to become an officer and eventual board member of a local Pizza Hut franchise group. During Simon’s tenure as Vice-President of Finance, the company spun off some of its subsidiaries and became publicly-traded through a successful IPO. It was the publicly-traded franchisee of another successful Wichita start-up, Rent-A-Center, where Simon subsequently transitioned into operations, in addition to heading marketing, purchasing and real estate. The company became Rent-A-Center’s largest franchisee, opening more than 120 stores in the southeast U.S. until it was ultimately acquired by its franchisor.
Following this success, Simon redirected his focus and agreed to an interim president position at the helm of Wichita’s innovative Center Industries, a branch of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation (CPRF). Simon and his team reversed the decline that the company had been experiencing and today the organization continues to provide professional opportunities in manufacturing for individuals with disabilities. Simon continued his support of CPRF as a board member for the organization. He also served on the Advisory Board of the Wichita State University Center for Entrepreneurship and generously gave his time and resources to many charitable organizations.
Bill founded Freddy’s in 2002 along with his brother, Randy, father Freddy, and friend and business partner, Scott Redler. The original intention was for the restaurant to be a single location, a casual burger joint where the group would gather with their families. Instead, it became a local sensation. Bill served at the helm of Freddy’s for more than 14 years and was instrumental in growing the concept from a single 2,400-square-foot restaurant to a nationwide chain serving more than one million guests each week. He led the company through unparalleled growth with a steady vision, and encouraged everyone he encountered to maximize their potential.
“Bill’s deep and enduring love of family was expressed in time spent together at the lake, hunting trips at the family farm, dancing the night away on special occasions, and finding connections in everyday moments. He was an accomplished water skier, enjoyed snow skiing and playing golf with his friends, brothers, and, more recently, his son Jake,” says Randy Simon, co-founder and CFO of Freddy’s, and Bill’s brother. “It was important to him that each Freddy’s restaurant provide a space for families to gather during life’s moments both big and small, and where friends connect, all over a meal that fills the stomach and satisfies the soul. The warm and inviting energy of each Freddy’s restaurant will carry Bill’s legacy forward.”