The District’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant will open Wednesday in the DC USA Complex in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, bringing with it 100 new jobs for local residents.
Owner and operator Jessie Chesson made it a priority that community members who are seeking employment will have an opportunity to work where they live.
“It is so exciting and surreal for me, truly a dream come true,” Chesson said. “We have shy of 90 employees and the vast majority are from this area. Many of our employees had been unemployed for long periods of time for various reasons, so we are excited to offer D.C. residents an opportunity to work.”
Chesson, a native of Maryland and an alumna of Howard University, pursued her dream of being a business owner after almost 20 years of a career in advertising and marketing.
“About three years ago I went to a franchise interest meeting, and after a long process I was selected to operate this Chick-fil-A in Columbia Heights,” she said.
Chesson asserts that 20,000 people put in franchise applications for the restaurant each year, but only 100 will be selected to own and operate a store.
“This has always been my exit strategy. I knew I did not want to retire from corporate America,” she said.
The company’s urban expansion has led to two milestones in Chick-fil-A’s market growth, first with a store in New York City that opened in September and now the first stand-alone franchise in northwest D.C.
“As far as real estate, we typically start in suburban areas and then build our way in,” said Brenda Morrow, northeast regional communications manager. “Our real estate strategy is about finding the right spot that offers financial security. So we look for spaces that have elements of residential, retail, commuter traffic and community.
“This location provides that — and there will definitely be more stores in urban locations soon,” Morrow said.
Chick-fil-A will award more than $32,000 in free food for the first 100 people in line when the doors open 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi in the spacious restaurant that seats 70.
The location will also feature a book house for community members to donate children’s books that will benefit Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Northwest.
“Personalized customer service and freshly prepared food have been the hallmarks of Chick-fil-A since the day founder Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant,” Chesson said. “My team members and I are committed to those same ideas as we welcome our guests to our DC USA restaurant and provide them with a remarkable experience.”
Jeff Cousins, a Federal Communications Commission employee, got in line early Tuesday at 12:45 a.m. so that he wouldn’t miss out on the fun.
“I was so excited I couldn’t sleep last night, so I told my wife that I was coming down, and when I got here nobody was in line,” Cousins said.
Cousins said he will use a sleeping bag to keep himself through warm through the night.
“I was always hoping and asking why isn’t there a Chick-fil-A in D.C., but now it’s here, I am excited this has been on my bucket list,” he said.