WALLINGFORD — Chick-fil-A has its eyes on a potential Route 5 location as the Atlanta-based fast food chicken chain continues to expand into Connecticut.
An application was filed with the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission Tuesday at 4 p.m., Environmental Planner Erin O’Hare said Wednesday.
If approved, the restaurant would be built on the site of Midas car care as well as a portion of the Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot and a smaller vacant property owned by Lowe’s.
O’Hare said a presentation from the company will not be made until the commission’s October meeting. There are no wetlands in the area of the proposed restaurant, O’Hare said, but it must come before the commission per local regulations. If a property includes over 20,000 square feet of impervious surface – such as pavement – and plans call for the addition of another 10,000 square feet of impervious surface, an application with the commission must be filed, O’Hare explained.
Midas owner Ken Freschi stressed Wednesday he will continue to operate the car repair shop at that location if plans for the restaurant don’t move forward. “We have no idea what’s going on until a closing day is set,” said Freschi, who has run the business for 25 years.
This isn’t the first time a restaurant has considered moving onto his property. “We’ve had five restaurants call us looking for locations,” he said. “They want to be in a high-traffic area.”
If plans for the restaurant don’t move forward, the lifelong Wallingford resident said: “I’m going to be here.”
Doreen DeSarro, business recruiter for the town’s economic development department, said Wednesday that she’s only seen one Chick-fil-A in her life while in Florida. Connecticut’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant is under construction in Brookfield, and is set to open in 2014. The fast-food chain only has three restaurants in New England to date. Two are in Massachusetts, and one is in New Hampshire.
“I guess they have a following,” DeSarro said. “I do know people that have eaten there who said they have good food.”
Comments about the definition of marriage from Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy last year prompted both protests and shows of support for the chain. Cathy told an interviewer from a religious publication that he supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Many in the gay community criticized the comments and the company’s contributions to a private foundation that opposes gay marriage.
One statewide gay rights advocacy group said Wednesday that, while it welcomes any business to Connecticut that will create jobs and foster economic growth, it opposes the use of corporate resources to oppose gay rights.
“Something we will not tolerate is when a corporation believes that it can use its resources to infringe upon the rights of American citizens,” said Anthony Crisci, executive director of the Norwalk-based Triangle Community Center. “Whether or not members of our community choose to patronize Chick-fil-A is not of great concern to our organization. I personally will never support a business that makes contributions to any organization that seeks to limit minority rights.”
But a restaurant industry analyst said enough time has probably passed since the controversy that people will likely accept the restaurant into their community.
“Those things tend to blow over after a couple months,” said Peter Saleh, director and senior restaurant analyst for the Telsey Advisory Group. “Generally speaking, most of these restaurant chains try to stay out of politics. I don’t think anyone will really remember.”
While traditionally located in the South, the privately held Chick-fil-A is likely looking to expand by “growing into locations and towns where they don’t already have a presence,” Saleh said.
Even with the area saturated with fast-food chains, “I think they’ll do just fine,” Saleh said.
The restaurant offers a quality product, he said.
A representative for Chick-fil-A declined to comment for this story.