Amid controversy, Chick-fil-A expands in ToledoWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Another Chick-fil-A is coming to town.
The construction at the corner of Talmadge and Sylvania Avenue will give way to a 4,500 square ft. Chick-fil-A building by Nov. 15. The site will employ 65 to 70 people, said Mike Herrick, owner/operator of the Chick-fil-A inside the mall.
The national fast-food chain is leasing the 1.13 acre plot of land from Tolson Enterprises, a local development firm. The firm acquired the land in 2010 and pursued Chick-fil-A as a client. Compelling qualities for the location included the busy intersection that carries at least 70,000 vehicles a day and its proximity to the Sylvania Avenue side of Westfield Mall, which has become the “front door” of the mall, said Steven Speranza, president of Tolson Enterprises.
Herrick said the stand-alone restaurant, equipped with a drive-thru, will complement his business.
“I’ve been the only one here since the ’90s so it was about time that we increase presence in Toledo,” Herrick said. The Chick-fil-A located in the now-defunct North Towne Square Mall closed in 1997 and the Chick-fil-A at the Woodville Mall closed in 1991. Another Chick-fil-A, also to employ at least 65 people, is slated to open in Perrysburg Nov. 1. Herrick’s shop employs 40 people. He will move to the Perrysburg location and another operator will take over in the mall, he said.
Local construction is in full force amidst a national debate triggered by company president Dan Cathy’s remarks about gay marriage. He recently shared his thoughts on gay marriage on The Ken Coleman Show: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
As a result, mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have blasted the chicken-sandwich chain, along with calls from supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community to boycott the restaurant. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in turn called for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on Aug. 1, which brought record sales to Toledo’s Chick-fil-A.
Meanwhile, some franchise owners have distanced themselves from the comments. Speranza said Tolson Enterprises is not concerned about the controversy.
“We’ve got all the respect and confidence in the world that they know what they’re doing,” Speranza said.
Herrick said he separates business from personal beliefs and that the controversy puts his employees in an awkward position.
“We believe in treating everybody with honor, respect and dignity and it doesn’t depend on their sexual orientation, their creed or their gender,” Herrick said. “We’ll continue to do the continue to leave the policy debate to the government. our job is to sell chicken.”
Chick-fil-A opened its first shop in a suburban Atlanta mall in the early 1960s, following the opening of its predecessor, The Dwarf Grill, in 1946. The chain has expanded to more than 1,600 locations in 39 states and reported annual sales at more than $4.1 billion in 2011. Herrick said the chain opens 65 to 72 stores a year but applications to operate a franchise exceed 30,000.