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Article updated: 11/19/2012 4:28 PM

Chick-fil-A wants a Gurnee store on village's west side

By Bob Susnjara

Chick-fil-A wants to expand its suburban footprint, this time in Gurnee.

Vernon Hills officials in August granted approval for Chick-fil-A to acquire and demolish an existing Pier 1 Imports store, on the southeast corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Route 60, for its first Lake County operation.

In Gurnee, Chick-fil-A has submitted plans to construct a 4,900-square-foot eatery on property used by Sam's Club and Walmart at Hunt Club Road and Grand Avenue. Gurnee's Chick-fil-A would have 136 seats inside and another 20 outdoors, along with a drive-through window.

Chick-fil-A's first step in the approval process will be an appearance before Gurnee's advisory planning and zoning board. Planning Manager Tracy Velkover said in an email that Chick-fil-A is expected to come before the village in late December or early next year in its effort to open its proposed Gurnee store.

Gurnee village board members will have the final say on Chick-fil-A after receiving the planning and zoning panel's recommendation.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she grew up in Florida and enjoyed Chick-fil-A when she lived there, but never thought of it as a big deal. She said while the eatery would fit nicely in Gurnee, there may be concerns about it being built on the busy Walmart and Sam's Club site.

"I'm happy they're coming," Kovarik said. "One thing I hear consistently from residents is they want variety."

Chick-fil-A operates 1,600 restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C. It has been making inroads in the Chicago area as part of a plan that called for opening 77 stand-alone and 15 licensee locations in 2012.

Best known for chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, Chick-fil-A's openings have attracted throngs of customers for its "First 100" promotion. Chick-fil-A gives coupons good for free weekly meals for a year to the first 100 people who line up at a grand opening.

Kovarik said she hopes Chick-fil-A doesn't dilute its brand similar to how Krispy Kreme lost its luster in the Chicago area after that company's doughnuts became widely available at gasoline stations and supermarkets.

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