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Staff photo by Mike Pare / A building on Signal Mountain next to the Signal Crossing II shopping center on Taft Highway will hold a Chicken Salad Chick restaurant as the eatery's owner "tests the waters" on a trial basis.

Chicken Salad Chick is opening a restaurant on Signal Mountain in the second key move by the eatery's Chattanooga area operator this month.

Josh Patton, who owns and runs the Chicken Salad Chick restaurants in the area, said plans are to open the eatery in mid-September on a trial basis for up to 60 days.

"The success will determine if a permanent Chicken Salad Chick is warranted in this area," he said.

Patton said he's leasing the former Rafael's restaurant space on Taft Highway across from the Pruett's Market. He said the grocery store's operator, Chuck Pruett, also owns the Rafael's building and is permitting a temporary lease of the vacant space, which was a Taco Bell in the past, too.

The Chicken Salad Chick location will offer both dine-in and drive-thru service, Patton said.

During the restaurant lock down earlier this year due to the coronavirus, Signal Mountain was one of the most popular areas for bulk order drop-off, the restaurateur said.

Last week, Patton said he planned to relocate the longtime downtown Chattanooga eatery on Market Street to Hixson. Plans are to open in the former Karl's restaurant space on Hixson Pike near Northgate Mall likely in October or November.

"I'm still open to having a downtown presence," Patton added. "With a lot of buildings empty [during the coronavirus outbreak] and people working from home, it may have a smaller footprint."

Since Chicken Salad Chick is downsizing downtown and moving to Hixson, there's some equipment, furniture and decor available for use in Signal Mountain, Patton said.

Kelly Fitzgerald, vice president of commercial real estate for Second Story Real Estate, said that Pruett is excited to have "a strong operator and concept like Chicken Salad Chick."

She said Pruett is looking forward for the eatery joining Signal Mountain and seeing it succeed.

Patton said the building has a new facade and roof put on recently so his group is going in "with some elbow grease" to clean up the interior.

"At this point, we are simply making cosmetic changes inside and putting some of our branding on the space," he said.

The trial period will cost about $10,000 to clean the interior and take care of permitting and licensing, Patton said. If the restaurant stays long-term, he expects to invest another $50,000 on making the best use of the space, including new flooring to match the brand and other changes, he said.

The restaurant will hire about 15 people, Patton said. If the eatery doesn't stay on Signal Mountain, those employees can transition to the new Hixson site, he said.

Chicken Salad Chick will have the Hixson, Gunbarrel Road, Erlanger and Signal Mountain locations after the move from downtown, Patton said.

He said the coronavirus "has not crushed us. We're still looking to grow."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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