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Groundbreaking signals Chick-fil-A expansion into Covington's Salem Bridge community
Veteran Chick-fil-A owner and operator Chris Giella (immediately to the right of the sign) along with members of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, Newton County Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes, other community leaders and parts of Giella's Highway 278 restaurant leadership team celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Salem Bridge store. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — Chick-fil-A’s Newton County imprint just got a little larger. 

The Georgia-based fast food chain’s local expansion continued Thursday morning with the groundbreaking of Chick-fil-A’s newest restaurant which will be dubbed the Salem Bridge store. It will be located at 12290 Brown Bridge Road in Covington.

Thursday’s private event featured owner and operator Chris Giella providing specifics on what the chain’s newest location will feature, while also promising to deliver the same kind of exemplary customer service Giella said people have come to know at the Highway 278 location. 

Community leaders such as Newton County Commissioner Chairman Marcello Banes and other were on hand to take part in the event. 

“There are people on this side of town — so many raving fans that live on this part —  who will now have the opportunity to visit us more often,” Giella said. “It’s just another opportunity for us to be a pillar in the community, to take care of this community and provide a positive influence that lives up to (Chick-fil-A founder) Truett (Cathy)’s legacy.” 

Projected to open later this fall — Giella estimates around “the end of September, first of October” — the Salem Bridge location will be nearly 5,000 square feet and will offer indoor seating for 140 guests including additional patio seating and a two-story playground for children. 

Giella said the new two-lane drive-through line will be able to house 24 cars at a time. Sixty-six parking spaces will be available, and the restaurant looks to welcome 100 employees. That’s in addition to the targeted worker increase at the Covington relocation that’s currently expected to be completed around July.

What that means is people with aspirations of working at Chick-fil-A without leaving the confines of Newton County have another option to choose from. 

“Between the two stores, we’re probably looking at 225 to 250 employees,” Giella said. “So we’re still hiring. We’re still looking for great people. It’ll probably be a little bit more aggressive for this site.” 

The contractors are slated to begin actual construction on Monday. And even with opening day still a good four or five months away, the Salem Bridge community is already getting excited about its newest dining option. 

Right before Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony began, two cars passing by on the access road saw the Chick-fil-A tents and signage and stopped to ask if a new store was going up. After being informed of the prospective opening date, passengers in both vehicles smiled and expressed their delight. 

Giella said such an enthusiastic reaction is simply confirmation that this part of the county is the right place for the franchise’s Newton County expansion. 

Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce president, right, Ralph Staffins stands next to a rendering of the new Salem Bridge Chick-fil-A store during a Thursday morning groundbreaking celebration. Construction on Georgia's latest Chick-fil-A restaurant is slated to begin Monday. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

“I did a teaser a couple of weeks ago on Facebook where I simply put up a picture of the site and asked, ‘What do you think,’” Giella said. “Maybe a day or so later, 4,000 to 5,000 people had hit that post and started making comments. 

“And I think that’s the exciting part about this location. We can reach so many more people. It’s a midway point. It’s not at the highway, not at a Home Depot shopping center. It’s not really a typical Chick-fil-A site, but it’s very much a community-driven rural site. It’s a community based store. It’s not really about industry here. It’s, again, about taking care of the community and its surrounding area and just really being a community driven store.” 

For Giella, it’s the perfect hallmark to a 19-year career at Chick-fil-A where 10 of those years have been spent in Newton County. Giella said he’s been working for the restaurant since he was 15 years old and he takes pride in being able to serve as an extension of its founder’s vision. 

“The thing about Truett is, with his legacy, you’re never going to live up to Truett,” Giella said. “He was just a little bit different than your normal man. But he set the bar really high. We’re not going to be perfect, but hopefully people will see our heart and passion of trying to reach out to the community. That’s really where we try to separate ourselves from everyone else. If it’s not about the community, then I don’t know what it’s about. 

“A sandwich just opens up a door for us to get into other places and hopefully have an influence on them.”

Giella said a portion of his leadership team at the Covington/Highway 278 location will be instrumental in helping get the new store off the ground. But he also knows that part of Chick-fil-A’s attraction — beyond its food — is its appeal to young workers. 

Each position the restaurant is hiring for, whether for leadership, hospitality, catering or cashiers and production, will include benefits such as scholarships for continuing education, Sundays off, flexible schedules and advancement opportunities. The many perks of working for the company is just another sign to Giella that something greater than itself has been instrumental in Chick-fil-A’s progress. 

“If you go back to the beginning of Truett’s life when he got started in the restaurant business, he actually had great failures, but it never slowed him down,” Giella said. “It was actually a God-driven thing for his failures. It helped him bring things back to focus and meet up with the right people. 

"Truett had the second mile service and third mile down pact before those terms were even created. If God’s hand wasn’t on Chick-fil-A, I don’t know what else to say about how we’ve just grown and grown and grown even through tough times.”