Representatives of the fast-food chicken chain Chick-fil-A offered a preliminary presentation to the Vernon Hills Village Board on June 19, proposing a store near Routes 21 and 60.
Chick-fil-A hopes to set up shop in the spot now home to Pier 1, which village officials said is set to close. Assistant Village Manager John Kalmar said Chick-fil-A plan to demolish the Pier 1 building and construct their fast-food restaurant on the site.
"We're very much looking forward to becoming part of the community," said Jason Hill, who works in design and construction for Chick-fil-A. The family-owned company started in a mall outside of Atlanta, Ga., in the 1960s, Hill said, and expanded to freestanding buildings in the 1980s. Today, Chick-fil-A has 1,600 locations.
"We're very much ramping up that program," Hill said of the freestanding buildings. Chick-fil-A broke into the Chicago market a little more than two years ago.
"This is a very strategic location for us," Hill said of Vernon Hills. The plan is to open the restaurant next year.
While most trustees generally said they like the idea of Chick-fil-A coming to town, they have reservations about the plans to construct the main entrance near the drive-through lanes. The initial plans call for the main entrance to be on the north-facing side of the building. Pedestrians would have to cross two drive-through lanes to enter the building’s main entrance.
"I like the building. I like virtually everything I see of it with one major exception — to get to the main entrance, you have to cross over a dual drive-through," said Trustee Thom Koch. "It's close to a deal-breaker."
Having pedestrians cross the drive-through lanes "just really frightens me," said Koch. "Change the main entrance if you could somehow."
Other trustees, including Jeanne Schwartz and Michael Marquardt, echoed Koch's concerns.
Hill conceded that "admittedly, this is not necessarily our preferred layout." He noted, however, that other store locations — including Schaumburg — are set up that way, with pedestrians crossing drive-through lanes. He said appropriate signage would be installed to warn drivers of the pedestrian traffic, and employees could be out directing traffic as needed.
Hill said roughly 60 percent of Chick-fil-A's business is from drive-through traffic.
"I'd really like to see it come to town," said Koch. He asked, though, whether the main entrance could be moved. "That really is my only concern."
Another Chick-fil-A representative suggested that the site could be re-worked to place the drive-through lanes on the west side of the building, along Milwaukee Avenue.
"This is just advisory," Village Attorney Robert Kenny said of the June 19 meeting. "It gives you a preliminary reaction, and nothing the Village Board says tonight is binding on them."