For the last few weeks, the lines around the commercial establishment have been enormous. Tempers have grown short as people have become frantic to make a purchase in time. Others say the wait is just not worth it and vow to try at a later time.
Sounds like Christmas at the mall. Instead, the star of the story is a Popeye's Chicken store.
Buffalo got its fried chicken franchise store back in December, and the reaction has been close to unprecedented. It has caused traffic jams along Elmwood Ave. Indeed, the police have been called in a couple of times to settle disputes about people cutting in line.
It's brought back memories of the great Krispy Kreme fad some years ago. A store opened up in Niagara Falls Blvd., back when the donuts had something of a mythical reputation. It was the same story in the opening weeks - you had to go at an odd time to buy a dozen, or risk getting in a traffic accident in the small parking lot.
Thus encouraged, more stores were opened, the market became flooded, the novelty wore off, the parent company made some mistakes ... and the stores were closed relatively soon after that. You can still find some Krispy Kremes around town, but not the just-made versions that were so, so good.
Popeye's actually has been in Western New York before, despite what you might have heard on some news outlets. A store opened up about 20 years ago, and we were regular patrons. Delicious. Then, one day we went there for dinner ... and the lights were off and there was nobody home.
What happened? A friend filled me in. He was having lunch there around 2 p.m. on weekday. All of a sudden, some official-looking types barged into the restaurant and started taping notices about the store's closure on the doors. Something about tax evasion. Oops. All patrons were ordered out immediately. My pal took his meal outside on the pleasant afternoon, and finished his lunch while sitting on one of those bumpers in the parking lot that prevent cars from rolling on to sidewalks.
Since then, we've been forced to eat Popeye's while on vacation. For a while, a Thruway rest stop near Batavia had a Popeye's, although it was tough to justify the trip and toll just for that. There was a Popeye's down the road by my late mother's for a while, but that closed on us. We once excitedly had a Popeye's dinner in the Las Vegas airport, a much better bet than the slot machines.
It was welcome news in the late summer, then, that a Popeye's would be built only a couple of miles from my house. Still, I heard about the lines and traffic jams involved before I heard about the actual opening.
Last week, we were eating lunch at a Wendy's down the street from Popeye's. The woman behind us in line said she had gone to Popeye's to pick up some lunch, but couldn't wait the necessary time and gave up. Her exit line was a good one: "Tomorrow, the store opens at 11 in the morning, so I'll be there at 10 to make sure I get some for lunch."
And then today, with inches of snow on the ground and more on the air, with the temperature in single digits - several cars were still in line at 1 p.m. to order their chicken.
One of these days, sanity will be restored to the chicken workplace, and I'll be able to order a favorite treat for a meal. Hope it's soon.
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