Famed chicken eatery eyes January opening downtown The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Famed chicken eatery eyes January opening downtown

December 8th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
Famed chicken eatery eyes January opening downtown

By Rudy Cavazos
Tribune Contributor

Popular Memphis-based Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken restaurant plans to open its first Arizona location in downtown Mesa, bringing its popular poultry to an area where development continues to grow.

The restaurant has gained national notoriety for its crispy fried chicken and scratch-made sides that are freshly made for each order.

Gus’s World-Famous Fried chicken currently has 30 locations nationwide. It has been featured on the Food Network and been named the “Best Fried Chicken in America” by Forbes.

CEO Wendy McCrory said the company picked downtown Mesa for a reason: “It really has what I would call a good heartbeat.”

She cited its current and projected growth and the area’s ability to still maintain a small-town charm.

“It’s got a really small-town feel, yet in a very big city,” she said. “You can feel that things are happening, things are coming and that there is just a lot going on and appears to be in the stage of coming back around.”

Downtown Mesa is on track for new residential and commercial properties, shops and restaurants, along with the new Arizona State University campus – all part of a revitalization plan that is moving rapidly.

“We have a lot of projects, about 1,500 building units that are in the stage of either approval or development,” said Jeff McVay, city manager of downtown transformation.

Gus’s Fried Chicken established its roots more than 60 years ago in the small town of Mason, Tennessee, when a local carpenter named Napolean “Na” Vanderbilt and his wife announced they wanted to offer “fried chicken that could unite a community in an era of divisive racial attitudes.”

Repeated praise in regional, state and national publications drew a lot of patrons – including McVay.

They had been experimenting with recipes in a tavern for several years, selling the chicken as sandwiches with white bread. Despite numerous requests that they start a free-standing restaurant, the Vanderbilts didn’t have the funds.

“However,” the company history states, “generous, chicken-loving locals offered to supply them with the materials necessary to build their own restaurant. Na, a skilled carpenter, built the restaurant on a piece of land he and Ms. Maggie owned on Highway 70 in Mason.

“Maggie’s Short Orders opened its doors in 1973.  The building still stands today and still serves Na and Maggie’s amazing fried chicken.”

Lured by repeated praise in local and national publications, fans flocked to Maggie’s Short Orders – including McCrory, who started working there on the weekends.

She eventually started a Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in downtown Memphis in 2001 – and hasn’t stopped opening new restaurants since.

“Bringing Gus’s Chicken to a new market, I think, is going to be a real hit… I don’t think there is any other concept out there that is like us,” McCrory shared.

Before the expected opening in January, Gus’s is planning a charity event.

“We ask them to bring awareness to us opening, tickets are free of charge, and we end up donating all of our sales, not just our profits, from that day back to that charity,” McCrory explained. “We hope that this interweaves us within the fabric of the community, which is very important to us.

She also hopes to open a second Arizona location in Phoenix in mid-2021, explaining, “Our mission to bring people together one piece of chicken at a time.” 


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