Chicken Chef: Mississippi’s Own A-Frame

A-frame buildings tend to stand out to me just because they are not too common around Mississippi, or anywhere else for that matter.  The term A-frame comes from the shape of the structure, where the roof extends down steeply on both sides of a central ridge, almost all the way to the ground.

(former) Chicken Chef restaurant 14th Street Pascagoula, Jackson County, Miss. 2012

I’ve been fond of a little A-frame building on 14th Street in Pascagoula.  It looked like a former restaurant and a few years ago I snapped a photo and didn’t think much of it after that.  It wasn’t until this past summer that I saw another A-frame in McComb that was eerily similar and wondered if there was potential for a “twins” post.  The buildings are a little different but their overall form is the same: an A-frame with an antechamber topped with a hipped roof that creates a pleasing, if somewhat unique, gable-on-hip appearance.

(former) Chicken Chef restaurant 707 South Broadway McComb, Pike County, Miss. 2016

I wasn’t having much luck with what business linked these unique buildings together until I found an ad and an article remarking on a grand opening in a 1969 Hattiesburg American.  Bingo!  Does anyone remember Chicken Chef restaurants?

Even more intriguing is the fact that Chicken Chef chain was based in Mississippi and grew rapidly.  According to Chicken Chef press releases there were 100 franchise locations in nine states which included five locations in Jackson alone.  I was hoping to find a Mississippi architect who designed these buildings but so far I’ve hadn’t had any luck.  The chain lasted less than three years before the stock IPO tanked, dropping 51% in June of 1969, the first month of offering.   In 1971 some of the restaurants briefly became a Shannon’s Food Shoppe but that didn’t last long either.  As far as I know, after this the buildings all went their separate ways.  I’ve seen a few of these Chicken Chef A-frames scattered across the state.

Hattiesburg

Greenville.  This is the only structure for which I found documentation for the construction.  A building permit for the $29,000 restaurant was issued to Greenville developer Walter Roman sometime between March 27 and April 15 1969.

Southhaven

There were Chicken Chef’s in Laurel and Gulfport but they both appear to have been demolished c.2007.  Biloxi had a Chicken Chef but I don’t believe it was located in one of the brand’s signature A-frame buildings.  One Chicken Chef holdout appears in McMinnville, Tennessee that still uses the name and even the red and yellow color scheme.

Incidentally the Pascagoula Chicken Chef structure also recently received a yellow and red paint scheme again.

Endnote: “We’re not talking about a drop from an initial offering price of 12 to 11 but things like Chicken Chef System’s drop from 14 3/8  to 7 (51 per cent)” Let’s Take Stock; Magic Word Must Ease Pain of Burn Don G. Campbell page 97 Arizona Republic August 16, 1969

Postscript 5-1-2017:  Eagle eyed readers Austin Tacious & Sara S. Green have identified other possible Chicken Chef restaurants in Jackson & Starkville

Jackson

The hipped roof on the front facade has been removed, making this Chicken Chef a little more difficult to verify. It does bring to our attention the fact that the hipped roof on the front facade is a front porch rather than covering any part of the enclosed building.

Starkville



Categories: Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Greenville, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Laurel, Lost Mississippi, Pascagoula, Recent Past

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28 replies

  1. There is one in the Candlestick parking lot on Cooper Road in Jackson.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. On street view, just south of the intersection of E. Northside Dr. and I-55 in Jackson on the west side and wedged between a Hooter’s and an antique store, only in Mississippi, is an a-frame building that is signed “Mississippi Title Loans”. In 1969 this was a fried chicken place. It is much closer to frontage road now than it was then due to the expansion of I-55. It’s in remarkably good shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another A-frame fast food franchise were the Sherer’s Drive-ins which according to the article below was first opened in Jasper, Alabama. The signature structures were characterized by a tall A-frame in the center with a long horizontal component below. There was one in West Point MS which was a teen hang-out ca 1970. It is no longer extant; a Huddle House now stands on its site. However, there are several of the old A-frames in existence in places such as Corinth and Pontotoc.

    Here’s an article that I found on the subject:
    http://www.birminghamrewound.com/sherers.htm

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is there something about an A-frame that lends itself to at least starting out life as a place to eat? I saw these and immediately wondered if that’s where Whataburger got the idea for their design from.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting! Amazing at how many were mentioned here, too. Most of the Whataburgers in Texas are an A-frame design, very similar. The first one to open was in 1950 and it appears the A-frame design came into being in the early 1960’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think there’s one of these buildings in Starkville on Hwy 12. I’d love to know more about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. During the summer of 1969, I worked with friends at the Chicken Chef near Northside Drive and I-55. It certainly had an eat-in area and a drive through. The chicken “nuggets” were fantastic, better than any tenders now-a-days, as the freshly marinated breast meat was lightly battered and then fried. We witnessed first hand the enormous evacuation of people from the Mississippi Gulf Coast for Hurricane Camille, and fed many of them as we were one of just a few fast food
    restaurants open along that stretch of I-55.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I believe there was a Chicken Chef in Natchez just off Liberty Road at at the HWY 61 bypass intersection.

    Liked by 1 person

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