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The first time Scott Pace encountered a Chicken Salad Chick restaurant, he wanted little to do with it. But his wife, Kendal Potesta, urged him to go inside.

Three seconds after trying it, Pace said he was hooked. So hooked, the husband-and-wife team of Potesta and Pace bought the franchise rights to bring six Chicken Salad Chick restaurants to Southwest Florida.

“Once I put that first bite in my mouth, it was a three-day-a week habit, from there on out,” Pace said. “We’re making 12 different flavors, fresh from scratch, every single day. We only use the highest-quality part of the chicken, which is the tenderloin, and we steam it. And we have 12 different varieties to serve it in, whether it’s in scoop form or it’s on a sandwich. Whatever your pleasure is, we’ve got you covered.”

The first of their locations opened today at 7925 Dani Drive in Fort Myers.

A sandwich and a side combo start at $9.29. “Classic Carol” is the name of the base version of the chicken salad. The others are mostly a variation of that one, such as Olivia’s Old South (sweet pickles and egg), Fancy Nancy (Fuji apples, seedless grapes, and pecans), Cranberry Kelli (dried and sweetened cranberries and slivered almonds), Buffalo Barclay (with Buffalo sauce), Sassy Scott (ranch, bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese) and more.

The Fort Myers location has a drive-thru and offers catering for events.

Other Chicken Salad Chick locations are being planned for Port Charlotte, Estero, Cape Coral, and North Naples with the sixth one likely slated for elsewhere in the Fort Myers area.

Pace has a finance background, having worked on Wall Street.

Potesta grew up around restaurants, with her father working at a Bennigan’s and later at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

Chicken Salad Chick began with founder Stacy Brown selling it out of her kitchen in another Lee County, the one in Alabama. When she realized selling food out of a home kitchen wasn’t legal, she went to work establishing a restaurant that has grown into a chain with more than 300 locations.

“We knew their footprint, and we jumped in right away,” said Potesta, who has a degree in finance from the University of Central Florida and an MBA. “We decided to sign up with Chicken Salad Chick in the middle of COVID. In the middle of the pandemic. When a lot of businesses were struggling, Scott and I made the really crazy decision to open six.”

Their next location in Port Charlotte should open by the end of the year, and the one at Estero Crossing should follow in early 2023, with the others to open on dates to be announced.

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