When Greg Smart attended his first day of law school at Ole Miss, he decided it wasn’t for him and took a different approach to his future. Smart returned to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and opened the first “Slim Chickens.” After 14 years, Smart’s business will come full circle, as a Slim Chickens is set to open in Oxford later this year.
While the chicken chain may have begun in Arkansas, franchise owner David Bagwell knows that Mississippians will feel at home when they walk through the doors of the upcoming restaurant.
“It’s almost like it should’ve been born in the Mississippi Delta,” Bagwell said. “The whole theme of the place is the Blues culture. You walk in and see exposed brick walls, wood tables, exposed rafters… it looks like a place you’d walk into while you’re in the Delta. There’s Blues on the radio, guitars on the wall, and you’re eating fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.”
The company has been looking to expand to Oxford, and although they thought it would be much further down the line, they decided that the time was right with the development boom happening around town.
“We weren’t planning on coming to Oxford, other than in our long-term plans, but the more we thought about it, the more we thought it was a good idea. We went through the town and realized that we have to come here,” Bagwell said. “There’s too much going on here to miss out on, and we knew that we had to get it here. If you would’ve asked us back in October about expanding to Oxford, the answer would’ve been that we were at least five years away from doing anything.”
Bagwell acknowledges that stiff competition exists around Oxford, but he doesn’t feel that it will be an issue when customers try their food.
“I may sound overconfident when I say it, but I’ve tried every similar product in Oxford, and I don’t think their product is on the same level with what Slim Chickens has got,” Bagwell said. “We’re hand-breading everything; it’s marinated overnight. From the salads to the sauces to the fried pickles, all of it is made from raw ingredients into the final product. I think we’ll be able to stand up on the product alone.”
Slim Chickens’ expansion into Oxford will be about more than just providing food to customers, according to Bagwell.
“When we come into a community, we don’t just want to come into a town and take people’s money. We want to figure out how we can connect back to the community and find the best ways to provide value,” Bagwell said.
Bagwell and Slim Chickens’ management are in talks with a location on Jackson Avenue and are hard at work to get a deal done to begin the renovation process. If the deal is completed, the restaurant may be in place as early as this summer. If not, the process will be delayed until 2018.
“I know that fast food fried chicken may seem like a dime-a-dozen, but we know that it’s going to be a hit, and people are going to love it,” Bagwell said. “It’s unlike anything else we have out there right now. Y’all just bear with us; we’re doing it as fast we can.”
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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