Local contractor C. Merrill Construction has work underway to transform the former Hardee’s at 612 Northside Drive East, Statesboro, into a Slim Chickens, on track to be the second location in Georgia for the fast growing, fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in chicken tenders, wings, sandwiches, salads, shakes and jar desserts.
The website for Slim Chickens – which was founded in 2005 in Fayetteville, Arkansas – lists the addresses of at least 175 franchise locations in 33 U.S. states, plus 11 locations in the United Kingdom and one in Kuwait. But the brand reportedly has expanded to about 250 locations. As of Friday, slimchickens.com listed 11 more U.S. restaurants as “coming soon,” but the one in Statesboro was not yet included.
However, Slims Evans LLC purchased the former Hardee’s location for $2 million from Tripeak Investment Company LLC, which in turn had purchased it for $1.6 million from SUFS Properties LLC, both in January of this year. Slims Evans LLC is a Georgia-registered limited liability company with an address in Destin, Florida, but with Rusty Skalla of Augusta as its registered agent and Augusta native James Bennett III as its manager.
Jim Bennett and Rusty Skalla were the investment partners who opened the first Slim Chickens in Georgia, on Washington Road in Evans, a suburb of Augusta, in late August 2021, the Augusta Chronicle reported in a story posted that Aug. 27.
As of Friday, the Evans location remained the only Slim Chickens store in Georgia. But Bennett and Skalla are also ready to build one in Albany, Georgia, which Bennett said should be under construction in 30 days or so.
“Statesboro will be opening first,” he said on the phone Friday. “I think on our construction we’re scheduled for a mid-December completion for Statesboro, and then we’ll anticipate about 30 days of punch-list items, getting our ducks in a row, training the staff, so we’ll probably target an opening somewhere around the end of January.”
When the Hardee’s franchise closed in May 2022, the building was already in noticeable disrepair, with some shingles flaking from the roof and a sheet of plywood forming part of the drive-thru surface.
The conversion to a Slim Chickens is expected to stay within the approximately 3,700-square-foot existing footprint of the building, said Statesboro city Planning and Housing Administrator Justin Williams, who confirmed that all required permits have been issued. But with the developers giving the city a construction cost estimate of $475,000, the place is obviously getting a lot more than a touch-up.
“We’re converting the building. It’s going to look 100 percent brand-new and 100 percent different than what it looks like today, but we are keeping the same footprint, very similar to what we did here in Evans, Georgia,” said Bennett.
For the Slim Chickens in Evans, the developers renovated a building previously vacated by a different chicken tenders-based restaurant chain, PDQ.
A re-created drive-thru, but with the window in about the same position as at Hardee’s, is part of the plan for the Slim Chickens in Statesboro.
“We’ll add all the nuances of a prototypical Slim Chickens building to that Hardee’s building so that at the end of the day it will look like a completely new and revamped building,” he said.
Bennett and Skala, as Peachtree Development, have plans to build 11 more Slim Chickens places in Georgia and South Carolina and around the I-95 corridor to northern Florida, for a total of 13 stores in their franchise operating company, Southeast Slims Hospitality LLC.
“We have confidence in the brand and the product, and we’re excited to bring it to the town of Statesboro,” Bennett said.The company is already seeking inquiries for the positions of general manager and assistant general manager and may start hiring for shift managers and hourly employees around November to have a team in place for a January opening, he said.