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Popeyes prepares for grand opening

Chicken chain to open Kokomo restaurant Oct. 4

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Chicken Anyone? — Kokomo’s new Popeyes restaurant on Markland Avenue will open Oct. 4.

Opening a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Kokomo has been on the chain’s radar for some time.

“We knew [Kokomo] was a great town and a great community,” said Sean Rahm, vice president of operations for Popeyes Midwest division. “We knew there was a hunger, an appetite, to build a Popeyes, so it was definitely something we wanted to explore.”

Rahm said the company has worked for the past two years on going through the real estate, permitting, and approval processes. On Oct. 4, all that hard work will be realized.

“I was excited [when I heard] because I really like Popeyes,” Evanne Mullins, a Howard County resident, said. “Now I’m just waiting for it to be done.”

Tredan Arnett said his initial thoughts about having a Popeyes in Kokomo were a little less enthusiastic.

“I wish it could’ve been a Chick-fil-A,” he said.

Arnett’s friend James Coyners agreed. “Chick-fil-A would have been better,” Coyners said. “To be honest, I was like, ‘OK, cool, we have a Popeyes now.’”

However, both boys said they will probably eat at Popeyes once it opens and they are happy to have more chicken-based restaurant options.

“Popeyes is like a breath of fresh air,” Coyers said.

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Popeyes disrupted the fast food market in 2019 with the introduction of its fried chicken sandwich. Originally a temporary feature on the menu, the sandwich caught people’s attention and sparked debate about which fast food restaurant had the best chicken sandwich.

Lines stretched as people raved over Popeyes sandwiches, and shortly after the craze began the restaurant sold out of the sandwiches altogether. Later that year, though, the fried chicken sandwich was put on the menu for good.

Brian Benson, owner of Awesome Air airbrushing in the Markland Mall, said he’s been eating Popeyes for years. However, he has mixed feelings about having a Popeyes in Kokomo.

“I’m not as excited about it as I would have been if it were the original Popeyes that I remember and loved,” Benson said.

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Taking Shape— The new Popeyes restaurant receives equipment to be used inside the eatery.

Benson was a frequent customer when he lived in Indianapolis, but he said the taste of the chicken has changed since Popeyes was bought by parent company Restaurant Brands International in 2017. However, Benson said he will still eat at the new Popeyes and thinks it is good for the community.

“Any addition of options you add to have different food and cuisine in Kokomo is a good thing,” Benson said.

Rahm said almost one-third of the new 200 to 300 Popeyes restaurants opened in the country each year are in the Midwest. Out of all the franchise’s new restaurants, Rahm expects Kokomo to have the biggest opening of the year.

“I’m hearing from different social media outlets, it seems like everybody’s super pumped up and excited for us to be in town,” Rahm said. “We expect it to be big.”