Georgia-based Chick-fil-A is planning to open a location on New Park Avenue in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford residents will soon be able to “eat mor chikin” without leaving town if Chick-fil-A’s plans to open a location on New Park Avenue are approved. Chick-fil-A is known for its original chicken sandwich and unique franchise model, and according to the company was recognized in 2015 as America’s “Top Chicken Restaurant Brand” by The Harris Poll
“Chick-fil-A is always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service. It has been a longtime goal of ours to serve customers in the West Hartford area and we look forward to the possibility of joining the community,” Chick-fil-A Public Affairs spokesperson Amanda Hannah said in an email.
The property, which is along the driveway that leads to Aldi, Home Depot, and BJs on New Park Avenue, is part of a Special Development District and must go through a specific process and receive Town Council approval before the project can move forward. It will be right at the street front, which is something the Town is trying to encourage.
Chick-fil-A’s location will also be a good complement to the Flatbush Avenue CTFastrak station that is diagonally across the street.
Director of Community Services Mark McGovern confirmed Tuesday that the application for the restaurant is scheduled to be submitted in January. “We anticipate action within two months and if approved the construction will start later in 2016,” McGovern said.
Chick-fil-A is very familiar to those who have spent time in the south, and recently opened four locations in Connecticut. Enfield and Wallingford are the closest to West Hartford, and there are also locations in Brookfield and at the Danbury Fair Mall. The company has more than 1,900 locations nationwide and is 42 states as well as Washington, D.C., and according to the company’s website had sales of nearly $6 billion in 2014.
Chick-fil-A has been criticized in the past for statements made by CEO Dan Cathy, who professed support for “traditional marriage” but has more recently admitted that he made a mistake. Corporate giving practices have since been changed, and some conservatives have now accused Cathy of selling out to the “left.”
Before finalizing plans to open a West Hartford location, Chick-fil-A reached out to State Sen. Beth Bye, who is married to a woman, to assure her that the company is not discriminatory to the LGBT community.
Bye said that although she has never been to a Chick-fil-A, she appreciated the company’s efforts and met with a regional manager.
“Really we spent more time discussing pay, health care, and working conditions,” Bye said. She said she is more concerned that the jobs they bring to town are good jobs, and is encouraged that each location is owned by a local, onsite manager who has to look the workers in the eye every day.
Chick-fil-A in West Hartford is expected to create between 80 and 100 new jobs.
According to information provided by Chick-fil-A’s corporate offices, the owner/operators “are encouraged to make choices that are best for the communities in which they operate. With a focus on education and community leadership, Chick-fil-A Operators across the country have given $68 million in contributions in just the last three years.”
Although the general manager couldn’t guarantee that Bye’s concerns would all be allayed, she was encouraged. “I appreciate the outreach and think that’s really unusual,” Bye said. “I think that extra outreach matters.”
Bye said that as long as the company is willing to take extra steps to be a good employer, “It’s a great business opportunity for the area.”
“It’s neat seeing development in that corridor, it really helps the town. If this is a one-of-a-kind business that brings people to town, that’s a good thing,” said Bye.
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