The police said Mr. Hawthorne, 57, was found dead around 5:10 p.m. on Saturday in his office at the company factory at 3958 Park Avenue in the Claremont neighborhood. Investigators recovered a handgun and a note, but the police did not reveal its contents.
On social media, Mr. Hawthorne’s death prompted an outpouring of emotions that ranged from sadness to shock to disbelief. Some people said it was a cautionary tale of the burden of success, while others speculated that his broad smile masked deep pain.
Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Hawthorne “was a good friend, and was always ready to help my office whenever we needed him. He will be sorely missed.”
Andrew Holness, the prime minister of Jamaica, also offered condolences on Twitter.
Inspired by his father, a baker, Mr. Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust in the Bronx in 1989. To fund the business, he pooled money with his siblings and their spouses. Golden Krust became a fast-growing family business with more than 120 stores in New York and beyond. Its staple offering, flaky dough patties filled with seasoned beef, chicken and other flavors, is sold in more than 30 states and distributed in New York City schools and jails.
“I was always in search of the next honest means to make a dollar,” he wrote. “Like many transplanted Caribbean nationals, I struggled to work and raise a family. I can only thank God for everything I have achieved, and if my story here can inspire others to rise up and give it a go, then I would have succeeded in doing something meaningful.”
Mr. Hawthorne grew up in St. Andrew, Jamaica, the sixth of 11 siblings born to Mavis and Ephraim Hawthorne, who owned a bakery. His parents sent him to the United States in 1981.
In New York, he obtained an associate degree in accounting from Bronx Community College and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a bachelor’s degree in business management and…