Dave’s Hot Chicken looking to spice up Hadley’s Mountain Farms Mall

A Dave’s Hot Chicken restaurant

A Dave’s Hot Chicken restaurant Submitted Photo

—Submitted Photo

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2024 5:01 PM

HADLEY — A Nashville-style hot chicken restaurant serving chicken tenders, sandwiches, milkshakes and a special kale slaw is looking to open in a former bank building next to Mountain Farms Mall.

Representatives for Dave’s Hot Chicken, headquartered in Pasadena, California, on June 4 presented to the Planning Board preliminary plans for reuse of the 5 South Maple St. building, opened as a PeoplesBank in 2000. The bank branch closed in July 2021 and the building has been vacant since then.

Ryan Little, a general contractor for Dave’s, said there will be minor modifications to the 3,219-square-foot building on the 0.88 acre parcel, located near Walmart and LL Bean and immediately next to another fast food restaurant, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.

“The brand represents a new kind of fast casual out of California,” Little said, adding that the chain, which has several locations in the Northeast, is popular because of the chicken options and other items on the menu, including macaroni and cheese and french fries. Rapper, actor and singer Drake is an investor in Dave’s Hot Chicken.

Little said the plan is to erect small towers connected to the building that will include the company logo, a screaming chicken head, with art graffiti on these towers to be done by a professional artist for what he calls a unique exterior representation.

Almerindo Graziano, the franchise owner, said the paint and design are custom to each location, with the intent to make sure people know it’s a restaurant. “Our ultimate goal is to make it look like a restaurant, rather than a bank,” Graziano said.

Board members, who may review site plans as a change of use from a bank to a restaurant but can also waive many of the requirements, had a series of questions about the plans, including the graphics and mural, with the business sign possibly above the roofline, which is not allowed by town zoning, and exceeding the 64-square-foot limit on signs on the building structure.

“Our concern is we don’t want your whole building to become a sign,” said Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer.

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Graziano said the mural is not part of the brand. “Our logo is the chicken head, so these pictures are just to bring visibility,” Graziano said. “That’s what the brand is trying to do, to bring attention to it. These designs have no connection to our chicken business.”

Similar projects have posed challenges to the Planning Board in the past. Before LL Bean opened, it modified a proposed mural on the side of the building to become a nature scene not connected to the business.

There is also uncertainty if the property will meet the town’s two-for-one parking requirement, as the addition of some outdoor seating areas is counted against the parking.

Dave’s Hot Chicken was founded by chef Dave Kopushyan and three friends in early 2017, initially opening as a parking lot pop-up.

Planning Board member Joseph Zgrodnik asked how the restaurant can make kale slaw tasty. Graziano said it’s all in the mayonnaise and “it’s the healthy option.”

The challenge, said Planning Board member Michael Sarsynksi, is that Popeye’s cole slaw is good, but kale slaw will appeal to the area’s demographics.

“You’re in the Happy Valley, so I think you’re going to sell a lot of it,” Sarsynski said.