Chicken Salad Chick
STORY BY JOE JANCSURAK
Photos By Brittany Castillo Photography: www.brittanycastillo.com
Like restaurant owners throughout North Carolina, Shane and Haley Pinder, co-owners of the newly-opened Chicken Salad Chick (CSC) on old Waterford Way, had to pivot hard when the COVID-19 pandemic brought dine-in business at its Wilmington location on Military Cutoff Road to a screeching halt just four months after opening in November 2019.
The Pinders met in 1997 while students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. and now live in Wilmington with their two children. They responded to the shut-down by taking their product on the road, making “quick chick drops” in Leland, Hampstead, Southport, Shallotte, Lake Waccamaw, Monkey Junction, Carolina Beach, Rocky Point, and Burgaw, where they met up with customers to deliver chicken salad (13 varieties!), pimento cheese scoops and creative sides, including a grape salad.
“When the shut-down happened in March of 2020, we turned the store’s lobby into a distribution center with what turned out to be 15 coolers, many of which were borrowed from neighbors and Facebook friends. We hustled like crazy,” said Shane, who together with Haley owned Maximum Performance Sports, a sports camp in Virginia, before becoming CSC franchise owners.
“Folks either phoned in their orders or placed them online and I was communicating regularly on Facebook about drop-off times and locations, where we created drive-through lines. We did that as many as 12 times a week for nine consecutive weeks,” said Haley, who also serves as an online psychology professor for a private college at Liberty.
So successful were the drops, Shane said the store managed to turn a profit while benefitting greatly from free market analysis. “With Leland getting two to three drops weekly versus single drops for many of the other communities, when it was all said and done, we determined that Leland would be our second location.’
Judging by the success of its grand opening in April, the Pinders nailed it, with daily customer counts of 450-600 during the restaurant’s first week. Prize giveaways included free chicken salad for a year, personalized cutting boards, commemorative cups and insulated grocery totes.
“Folks told us repeatedly how grateful they are that we came over the bridge,” Haley said. “We must’ve heard that a hundred times.”
With more than 225 Chicken Salad Chick locations throughout the United States, Haley and Shane want readers to know that the Leland and Wilmington locations are locally owned and operated by people who truly care about the area. “We enjoy supporting our kids’ activities, serving at our church (Port City Community), and serving the community,” Haley said. “We’re here to spread joy, enrich lives and serve the community with great food and great service,” Shane added.
Community support has been overwhelming, Haley said. “What drew us to this area and the brand was our belief that the community would respond well based upon the convenience and their love for southern chicken salad. Made fresh daily with the highest quality ingredients, our food provides healthy dine-in and on-the-go options. Catering events such as graduations, bridal showers, parties, etc., have also done well. Our customers are great.”
Of course, the Pinders are big fans of the CSC menu items. “I eat it every day and have for three-and-a-half years now,” Haley said, noting that her favorite side item is the Grape Salad and as the weather heats up here, she enjoys the Fruity Fran. “I love the blend of pineapple, Fuji apples and grapes. Another refreshing favorite is Lauryn’s Lemon Basil.”
Meanwhile, Shane’s tastes lean spicy, with some of his favorites including the Buffalo Barclay and Kickin’ Kay Lynne, which brings the heat with its combination of buffalo sauce, jalapeños and Siracha.
Shane added that CSC soups such as the Loaded Potato Soup, Chicken and Dumplings and Tomato Bisque have a following. “It’s unbelievable how much soup we sell. Our desserts—pies, cakes and cookies—are also popular.”
Hungry? Then what are you waiting for? The Chicken Salad Chick location at 503 Olde Waterford Way, open Mon. – Sat. from 10:30 am to 8 pm, looks forward to welcoming you and your friends and family. Phone: 910-228-5908.