By Natalie Simms
Before the end of the summer, Romans will be able to sink their teeth into one of 15 flavors of chicken salad coming soon to the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant at 800 Martha Berry Blvd.
Chain co-founder Stacy Brown is opening her own signature restaurant in her hometown. The Darlington graduate started the company with her late husband, Kevin, in 2008 in Auburn. Kevin passed away in November 2015, after battling cancer but Stacy has continued at the helm of the company, along with CEO Scott Deviney, growing the chain to 122 restaurants in 14 states.
“We will open our first restaurant in Ohio next week. We also recently opened in Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. We are growing north and growing west,” she says.
Now Brown, and her new husband are the franchisees of the founder’s restaurant called ‘Stacy’s Chicken Salad Chick’, which is expected to open by the end of August.
“My husband, King Braswell, who is also an entrepreneur, has worked on the design for this founder’s location. It will provide a special experience for our guests in Rome,” says Brown. “He (Braswell) has a background in horticulture that he is bringing into the restaurant…I know folks will enjoy watching it come to life.”
The restaurant will feature an open-air outdoor courtyard at the front of the restaurant complete with trees and flowers.
“It’s a very unique element that no other (CSC) restaurant has…it’s going to be a beautiful place,” she says. “It’s the number one question I get asked when I’m in town…‘What is that going to be in the front of the restaurant?’”
Many have also questioned why Brown, as the company owner, is now a franchisee of her own restaurant. “For one, it’s a great investment,” she says. “But because Rome has such a special place in my heart. It’s my hometown. I wanted to make sure Rome has a unique restaurant, so I decided to open one myself.”
Construction is moving along a little ahead of schedule.
“The heat is on us now. There are so many custom items for the inside that we are working on. So we are working to get things ready, but construction is moving along fast. Brooks Building Group has been great to work with,” says Brown.
Plans are already coming together for the grand opening celebration. Brown says to watch the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates on the exact date, but once set, there will be lots of giveaways including a chance to win free chicken salad for a year.
“We will have a grand opening celebration on the first day complete with the ‘chicks’ that are in Rome. We will have a photo booth with the chicks, so many of our customers just love meeting them,” she says. “We will also have a number of events and giveaways that entire grand opening week.”
Each chicken salad flavor is named after a real person (chick) that is special to both Brown and her late husband. Five flavors are named after women from Rome including the ‘Nutty Nana’ after Brown’s mother Cheryl Melton; the ‘Sassy Scotty’ after Brown’s friend Scott Jacobs; ‘Cranberry Kelli’ after Brown’s sister-in-law Kelli Melton; ‘Kickin’ Kay Lynne’ after Brown’s aunt Kay Lynne Mitchell; and ‘Fruity Fran’ after Brown’s aunt Martha Ann Wheeler.
Brown has already hired General Manager Shannon England who just moved his family to Rome from Melbourne, Fla. “We are blessed to have him lead our mission,” says Brown. “He previously served as a youth minister at Central Baptist Church in Melbourne, but he has extensive restaurant experience.”
The restaurant will be hiring about 50 employees towards the end of July. The Facebook page will have updates on hiring and how to apply and interview.
“Our goal is to create something for everyone from everything we have to offer in any way possible…that means either coming to dine-in, going through the drive-through, sitting in the courtyard or having lunch catered to their office,” she says.
As for the menu, look for a few retired or “vintage” chicks to return to the founder’s menu.
“A few of those will return to the Founder’s menu on a permanent basis including Nutty Nana and Jazzy Julie,” says Brown. “We will also offer limited-time, seasonal flavors so there will always be something fresh on the menu.”
But aside from just opening the new restaurant, Brown hopes the Rome community will feel the culture of Chicken Salad Chick as well.
“We not just coming as a restaurant but to make an impact in the community,” she says. “Through our Chicken Salad Chick Foundation, we want to be a part of cancer initiatives locally, not only have our team members involved, but its part of our mission and purpose…serving is also serving the community, not just lunch.”
The CSC Foundation was started shortly after Kevin was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his liver. Through fundraisers, the foundation makes donations to local cancer centers, as well as the American Cancer Society.
“We work to continue his legacy by giving to the local community. I know he would be amazed at how many folks we have touched,” she says. “In addition to finding a cure for cancer, we are passionate about ending hunger. We have a giving card that we sell once a year for $5 but is worth $50 in food, and all proceeds go a local food bank. So, all money raised in Rome will go back to a food bank in Rome.
“I am just so excited about this restaurant. It’s been great to hear about all the ‘buzz’ in Rome surrounding the restaurant. We think we’ve got a great location that is central to everything in town and you can get to from every direction easily,” she says. “I’m so looking forward to opening it.”