In a period when many restaurants are floundering to stay afloat, one chain is opening a new location in the Upper Peninsula.
The announcement comes months after the chain closed its 20-year mainstay on King Street following the building’s sale in August and a nine-month leaseback period.
“Really we left the area where we were at because it just wasn’t like it used to be when we opened. It changed a lot,” co-owner Chip Roberts said.
Roberts and Bobby Perry founded the first Kickin’ Chicken in 1997 in the North Morrison area — specifically at 915 Morrison Drive, where the ramps to the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge now stand.
The restaurant moved from there to 350 King St. two years later, then moved one more time in 2001, settling into its familiar space at 337 King St., where it remained until April. The Kickin’ Chicken also has locations on James Island, on Dorchester Road, and in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant and Summerville.
Roberts said he is excited to return to the restaurant’s roots.
“The area of North Morrison is up and coming. There’s a lot of development going on with apartments, office space and the Tech Center right next door,” Roberts said, referring to the Charleston Digital Corridor’s Charleston Tech Center currently being built on Morrison Drive.
With the pandemic and upcoming holidays, the timeline for the restaurant’s opening is tentative. However, Roberts has a definitive deadline he plans to stick to.
“We want to be open before football season next year. That’s guaranteed,” he said.
The co-owner joked he’s either courageous or out of his mind for opening a new restaurant during a pandemic, but he said Kickin’ Chicken has thrived thus far.
“Our business model was always set up for a lot of takeout and delivery. It was an easy transition for us when they closed the inside dining. A lot of restaurants weren’t used to doing takeout business, but we always had been, so it was relatively seamless for us to do that then,” Roberts said.
He said The Kickin’ Chicken’s price point is also lower than other downtown establishments.
“I’ve got a lot of friends that own fine-dining restaurants and I try to support them, but it sucks to spend $150 on takeout in a cardboard box,” he said. “Trying to eat steak and fish out of a to-go box is not the same.”
Along with multiple televisions, the NoMo venue will have an indoor-outdoor bar with a covered patio for guests. It also will incorporate the current automotive shop’s roll-up garage doors, similarly to the aesthetic of the restaurant’s Mount Pleasant location.