Chick-fil-A at the Crossroads?
Yes, the restaurant chain has opened a pop-up store inside the largely vacant Crossroads Mall at 72nd and Dodge Streets. At least that's the best way to describe it — there are no cooking facilities, no grill, no fryer and no soda-pop dispensers — just a couple tables and one clerk.
The eatery, which opened four weeks ago near the old Chili's restaurant space, is open a limited number of hours: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
And there are only two hot items on the menu, Chick-fil-A's regular chicken sandwich and the spicy version.
So where is the food coming from?
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“We prepare it at our Chick-fil-A store in Papillion. We are making deliveries every hour,” said Jessica Distefano, the Papillion restaurant's director.
The sandwiches arrive in a thermal-controlled insulated bag, the size of an old-fashion ice chest.
Want fries with that? Sorry, no can do.
An order of fries wouldn't survive the six-mile trip from the Papillion store. Actually, they'd survive the trek, but they wouldn't be particularly appealing, the store's clerk said.
“Our french fries have a shorter hold time, so we don't sell them there,” Distefano said.
Instead, customers can choose a bag of chips or chocolate chip cookies. Bottled soda, iced tea or freshly squeezed lemonade and Chick-fil-A's cold sides — fruit cups, side salads, cole slaw and yogurt parfaits — are available in the store's refrigerated display case.
The new Chick-fil-A store is a novelty in a distressed mall that is slated for demolition. The plan calls for everything west of Target is to be leveled.
Mall owner Frank Krejci of Omaha's Century Development plans to tear down the existing mall and construct a new open-air shopping center, a $350 million project that would reconfigure most of the existing mall's 45 acres. Krejci hopes to open the retail portion of the mall in spring 2015.
So, why put a new Chick-fil-A in a mall that's short-lived?
The Atlanta-based chain hopes to open a full-size restaurant in the area “near 74th and Dodge in the future,” Distefano said. The little pop-up store is a way to familiarize the locals with the chain's fast food fare.
At this point, the doomed mall has a limited number of eateries. There is a Starbucks and a Pizza Hut inside Target and a cafe at Barnes & Noble that serves, coffee, soup, sandwiches and pastries.
Mall workers, in particular, seem to appreciate the new offering, and can be found popping in to Chick-fil-A for a sandwich and soda.
On a recent afternoon, a dozen or so curious shoppers wandered into the Chick-fil-A around noon and, once they got over their surprise at the store's format, scanned the menu and decided to order.
“How do you go to the bathroom,” a concerned customer asked the lone clerk.
“I try not to think about it,” he said with a laugh.
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