First West Michigan Chick-fil-A: A 14-year dream

The Chick-fil-A on Kalamazoo Avenue near M-6 in Gaines Township. (Feb. 7, 2017)

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Brad Spurlin had been hounding Chick-fil-A for a shot at success in West Michigan for more than a decade.

Five weeks ago, his dream came true.

“People have asked, ‘Well, how many hours are you working?'” Spurlin told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. “I don’t know. I’ve waited all my life for this opportunity.”

Since the restaurant on Kalamazoo Avenue near M-6 in Gaines Township opened, it has been a huge success. The line of customers waiting at the drive-thru often stretches off of the restaurant’s property.

Spurlin has been anticipating business dying down following the initial craze, but at this point that hasn’t happened, he said. Still, when asked about how many patrons the store has seen, Spurlin answers quickly.

“Not enough…That’s really the only answer we’re going to share,” Spurlin said with a laugh. “Not enough people.”

Spurlin said he submitted his first request to open a franchise in West Michigan in 2002. He was denied.

“They said, ‘Hey, it’ll be a long time before we get to Grand Rapids,'” Spurlin said.

He never anticipated that it wouldn’t actually happen until some 15 years later.

Finally, he got the call he had been waiting for, but the process was far from over. Spurlin and his family went through a two-year vetting process before finally getting the green light from the company.

“Multiple phone screenings, you have to fly down to Atlanta a number of times, you have to go work in a restaurant,” Spurlin said of the process. “It’s been quite the ride.”

The restaurant staffs some 100 employees. A sign outside says they’re still hiring. Spurlin says good chicken is only part of the recipe for success. The people he chooses to staff the restaurant are the other key ingredient.

Much of Spurlin’s staff is comprised of area youths.

“That is one of our passions, is investing in these young people and showing them the honor in hard work and work ethic and the right way to do business,” Spurlin said.

Vehicles are parked outside the Chick-fil-A off 54th Street in Wyoming ahead of its opening day.
Vehicles are parked outside the Chick-fil-A off 54th Street in Wyoming ahead of its opening day.

This week brings another game-changer for Spurlin — another Chick-fil-A is slated to open in metro Grand Rapids. The location in Wyoming opens on 54th Street.

Spurlin said he’s been in touch with the owner and wishes her the best. He hopes she loves it as much as he does.

“If I had known how much I truly love the hospitality business, I would’ve changed careers 30 years ago,” Spurlin said. “I’m just so lucky and blessed that I got to do it with Chick-fil-A.”