After some 50 years in business, Sam Hamra stands behind two famous quotes.
He has learned that the harder he works, the luckier he gets. The phrase made popular by film producer Samuel Goldwyn has held true in Hamra’s life.
So has, “If opportunity does not knock, build a door,” Hamra says, borrowing from comedian Milton Berle.
Those principles helped Hamra build a $150 million food and real estate empire, in addition to his career in law. Springfield-based Hamra Enterprises employs 3,000 and operates 28 Wendy’s restaurants through Wendy’s of Missouri Inc., 47 Panera Bread cafés in the greater Chicago and Boston markets, and a number of hotels and real estate properties through various subsidiaries.
Born and raised in the Missouri Bootheel town of Steele, Hamra arrived in Springfield in 1959 armed with a University of Missouri law degree. His law career took him to private practice with various partners, as well as serving as government relations attorney for the city of Branson and as Nixa city attorney. In Branson, 1991–05, he was instrumental in obtaining federal and state funding for the construction of four lanes on Highway 65 from Christian County south to Branson, and he helped secure $50 million in tax increment financing for the $420 million Branson Landing outdoor lifestyle center.
Known for introducing Springfield to Wendy’s square hamburgers and the chocolate Frosty in 1976, Hamra later earned international acclaim with the 2009 R. David Thomas Founder’s Award, which is presented annually to the outstanding franchisee across the Wendy’s system worldwide.
Hamra now serves as chairman of Hamra Enterprises, after passing the president and CEO torch in January 2011 to his son, Mike.
Sam Hamra is now focused on his legacy to the community, something that has marked his career. A long list of previous work includes charter president of the Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast, 1967; Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association’s Legal Internship Program, 1968; and Legal Aid Association, 1976; chairman of Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Highway Committee, 1977, and Building Fund, 1979; CoxHealth board member, 1985–2009, including a stint as president, 1996; Springfield-Branson Transportation Study Committee chairman, 2000; founding organizer of OakStar Bank Holding Co., 2003; and Ozarks Technical Community College Foundation board member, 2008–present.
Hamra also dabbled in Democratic politics, building a reputation as a successful fundraiser. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, 1980 and 1984. From 2011 Men of the Year