First stand-alone Chick-fil-A reopens to throng of waiting customers

Photo Jan 10, 2 16 49 PM (2)

            An Atlanta Chick-fil-A awaiting opening day, drew its customary crowd of eager would-be customers camped on the parking lot waiting for their first meal at the new restaurant and possibly winning free meals over the next year. This time, however, the opening had special significance. The restaurant is Chick-fil-A’s historical first stand-alone restaurant, which was torn down after 32 years, then rebuilt, reopening Jan. 11 in what Chick-fil-A calls “the chain’s most state-of-the-art building.”

            Operator Greg Mapoles, who took over the franchise at the North Druid Hills Road restaurant in the mid-1980 after it operated two years under corporate ownership, also is at the helm at the newly opened eatery.

            “This was a new business model,” Mapoles explained. “Prior to the opening of the North Druid Hills location, all Chick-fil-As were inside malls. As part of its core growth strategy, the company was exploring offering customers other additional options.”

            He explained that Tim Tassopoulos, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, was given responsibility for evolving Chick-fil-A restaurants from a mall concept into adding free-standing locations, where stores could set their hours without regard for when the mall opens and closes and offer drive-thru service. Tassopoulos was from the area–he in fact, attended nearby Lakeside High School—and chose the busy spot near Briarcliff Road, which had previously been a plant nursery. Near DeKalb County’s Adams Stadium, the restaurant is popular with those going to sports events.

            “It’s a great spot,” Mapoles said, “In addition to students, parents and school employees, we have regular customers from businesses and homes in the area. Some had become old friends that we missed during the five months we were closed. We look forward to serving them again.”

            Mapoles, who grew up in the North Druid Hills area, has worked at Chick-fil-A restaurants since he was a teenager and met his wife when they were both working at the Northlake Mall store. He was chosen to take over the first stand-alone restaurant from corporate in 1988 and has operated the business ever since. “It was an exciting opportunity to help pioneer the chain’s entry into stand-alone growth knowing that my team and I would become valuable resources for providing feedback to corporate and helping other operators,” he said.

            Seeing the old building destroyed brought Mapoles mixed emotions, he recalled.  “Seeing our historic restaurant torn down was a little sad, but I was excited that the new building would have the company’s most modern design,” Mapoles said. The company describes the new building as a “Heritage restaurant design with a reconfigured dining room that seats 102 and showcases vintage-inspired interior, including a large gathering table made from reclaimed wood and light fixtures made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles and peach baskets.” It is two-story restaurant with a dual drive-thru, designed to accommodate more than 200 cars an hour. It has an indoor playground area and a high-capacity kitchen that the company says surpasses industry standards in food safety.

            In the more than 30 years since Chick-fil-A originally build at that location, traffic in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Road area has increased greatly. Orientation of the new building was reconfigured for traffic flow efficiency in the parking lot and drive-thru with both entrances now located in the back.

            Mapoles said approximately 43 employees, most of whom worked at other Chick-fil-As during the construction, will return, including Angie Dewine, who worked there nearly 29 years. In addition, the store will have 60 new employees. The North Druid Hills reopening is one of two new rebuilds and three new restaurants opening in metro Atlanta the first two months of the year, creating more than 400 new jobs in the area, according to Chick-fil-A’s corporate office.

            Like all Chick-fil-A restaurants, the new ones will close on Sundays, a practice started by founder , when he opened his first restaurant in 1946. He said that having worked in a restaurant that required employees to work seven days a week, he appreciated the value of giving employees a day to rest, spend with family and friends and—if they choose—worship. Founded in Hapeville, Ga., Chick-fil-A now has more than 2,200 restaurants in 46 states and Washington, D.C.


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