Chicken rush: Popeyes opening draws big crowd

052518 Popeyes Grand Opening
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Cashier Selena Eason waits on a customer in line at the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant in Elizabeth City, Thursday. The fast-food chicken chain opened its first restaurant in Elizabeth City on Thursday. A large crowd turned out, with most saying they came for the fried chicken.

052518 Popeyes Grand Opening
052518 Popeyes Grand Opening

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A large crowd turned out for the opening of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s first restaurant in Elizabeth City on Thursday, and there was no doubt what customers were lining up for. 

"I just love their chicken," said Tyesha O'Neal, who ordered a two-piece combination meal. "It's so delicious."

"I like the spicy chicken," added Larry Spencer, a second class petty officer in the Navy who was dining in with his wife Stacey and their 5-year-old daughter, Veronica.

“It’s just good chicken,” said T.J. Johnson, a salesman at Hall Honda, who was waiting in his vehicle in a long line of cars in the restaurant’s drive-thru line.

Denauvo Robinson, vice chairman of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education, said his second reason for standing in a long line inside the restaurant was he wanted to support a new business coming to Elizabeth City.

"My first reason for being here: I love Popeyes. It tastes really good," he said of the chicken.

Robinson ordered a three-piece chicken meal, with a biscuit and red beans and rice.

The red beans and rice actually were what Stacy Spencer said she was hungry for. She’s three months pregnant with her and Larry’s second child, and says Popeyes food helps satisfy her hunger pangs.

"He'll probably have to make runs," she said, motioning to Larry.

Making a run was in fact what Johnson was doing. He and his coworkers at Hall decided they wanted Popeyes chicken for lunch, so he “got elected to come stand in line,” he said with a laugh.

The new Popeyes opened in a renovated building off West Ehringhaus Street that was once the home of a Captain D's restaurant. The seafood chain restaurant moved to the former Arby's building on North Road Street.

Asked about the building’s new look as a Popeyes, O'Neal said, "They did good."

According to Carl Gorospe, the owner of the Popeyes franchise in Elizabeth City, remodeling the former Captain D’s building into a Popeyes took some doing.   

Gorospe said the interior had to be reconfigured, the plumbing had to be brought up to standards and the rest rooms had to be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also said he replaced the building’s air conditioning system.

"Everything you see here is brand new," he said. "It's a good accomplishment.”

Gorospe said he wanted to purchase the former Captain D’s site. However, he said the Georgia-based Vireo Group, which owns the adjoining Southgate Mall property as well as the restaurant building, wanted to keep leasing the space.

"They know it's a gold mine," Gorospe said.

Gorospe said his Popeyes restaurant employs 72 workers. The restaurant can seat up to 45 customers.

Although the Popeyes officially opened Thursday morning, the restaurant was open for part of the day on Wednesday so employees and their family and friends could dine together.

The restaurant is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The drive-up window's service hours are 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.