ITALY

Eva Tavira-Hernandez used to drive a 45-minute commute from her home in Italy to her former job. As a single mother to a family of five kids, the commute began to take a toll on her family life.

But thanks to Victron Energy, Exxon Mobil and her Golden Chick family, now she doesn’t have to drive very far at all.

Golden Chick is a fast food restaurant chain that serves golden roasted and fried chicken, chicken fingers, catfish, sandwiches and several other fresh-fried combos. With 184 locations and counting, Golden Chick recently held the grand opening for its newest location on Thursday at the Exxon Mobil Gas station in Italy.

“When we were really looking at putting something into the station, we were looking for the newest thing,” franchise owner Michael Tomlinson stated. “Golden Chick just has a really good recipe for how they marinate their chicken and their tenders.

The vacant space in the gas station previously had a McDonald’s restaurant in it before the business shuttered and opened its own business building across the highway. When Tomlinson was brainstorming which restaurant to install in its place, he thought of what would best serve the truck drivers and the passersby that came through the town on Interstate 35.

The decision to put Golden Chick inside then became an easy one to make for Tomlinson.

“We love their tenders,” Tomlinson stated. “The cooking process is perfect. The tenders alone just melt in your mouth.”

Balloons, smiling faces and the fresh scent of golden-fried chicken filled the restaurant during its ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon. The gas station and the restaurant are owned by Victron Energy, a fuel distribution company that’s based in Waxahachie.

Italy Mayor Jackie Cate stated Victron owned all of the development surrounding Interstate 35 East, save for a Jack in the Box and Love’s Travel Shop.

“We bring in quite a bit of job opportunity for the city,” Victron Energy president Walid Alameddine stated. “This continues to be a landmark that represents our commitment to the city and people of Italy.”

He said they like the small-town atmosphere Italy has to offer, where they can just walk into city hall and strike a conversation with the mayor anytime they’d like.

Alameddine also donated two $2,000 checks to Italy Independent School District on behalf of the company.

“This is the cornerstone for everything they’ve done here,” Cate remarked. “They really invested in the city and in this community. We really appreciate that. I can’t say enough about them.”

Working at Golden Chick for two months now, Eva stated that the Golden Chick staff is a tight-knit family that’s supportive of her life inside and outside of work.

She said that they’ve given her the opportunity to both grow professionally and take care of herself personally.

“This is a job that has offered me the opportunity to grow with the company,” Eva expressed. “This right here is perfect. It’s close to home. If I need to go see my kids for an emergency, it’s right there. Our management understands if you have a family emergency, you can go.”

Her daughter, Selena, works alongside her mother at the Golden Chick and was even in front of the store Friday in the chicken costume urging people inside.

“It’s very friendly,” Selena expressed. “You work at a fast pace, it draws people in and everybody is always pleased when they leave here. You go places with them.”

With Tomlinson owning five gas stations and eight business entities within those stations, one of the proudest parts of opening up this Golden Chick to him is to give some of those Italy residents’ opportunities they may not have had otherwise.

He said hearing their story and knowing how hard some things can be for them brings him comfort knowing that he’s helped to make their lives better.

“When we started doing interviews, there was a lot of people that had come to us and said that it’s so hard to get a job right now,” Tomlinson recalled. “They would have to literally drive almost to Dallas just to get a job that’s for eight dollars an hour. Just the gas alone kills them getting to and from Dallas and Waxahachie.

Tomlinson stated that the Golden Chick currently employs 17 people. However, they hope to hire nine more positions by the end of the year.

With a Gladiator Grill looking to be added to the gas station next week, Tomlinson estimated that will bring an additional six jobs to the city, adding up to a total of 31 new jobs to be filled.

“It’s a hard job pool around here,” Tomlinson expressed. “Bringing in 26 more jobs for people to choose from is big – especially in a community like this that doesn’t have much.”

Cate stated that the Golden Chick shows the gradual growth the city is experiencing, and he can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

“We keep our people local,” Cate stated. “We’re not that bedroom community like a lot of towns our size are. There are job opportunities for our local people. That’s big for us.”

Visit the new Golden Chick at 101 L R Campbell Road, Suite 200, or view their menu online at www.goldenchick.com