What started as Matthew Richardson’s wife’s infatuation with Chick-fil-A’s lemonade has turned into an entire love affair between the Richardson family and the popular fast-food restaurant chain.
This affair ultimately resulted in the revitalization of 44th Street and Indian School’s northeast corner, with Richardson opening his own Chick-fil-A franchise in 2013.
Over time, it has arguably become Arcadia’s favorite fast-food restaurant, acting as a magnet for hungry neighbors of all ages. Seeing the cars that stretch into the street daily is simple proof.
“It’s been so special for us to become a part of the rich history of Arcadia. My family now knows what it feels like to experience a true sense of community,” Richardson said, “and we just love it.”
Richardson says he and his family rarely ever leave the neighborhood. “My entire life is now lived on one block as I have just a 35-second commute from home to the restaurant.”
Asked how many hours he works each week and he just laughed. “I haven’t worked in eight years because I love what I do, and if you love what you do, it isn’t really work.”
Operating the quick-service restaurant has been a family affair from the very start. Richardson’s wife, Rachel, and their three boys, Joseph, Noah and Matthew, Jr., all work in the restaurant, handling different responsibilities.
"We are so blessed by the trust and the favor of the community. We do all that we can to return the support."
“The boys are older now, but when they were youngsters and helping in the restaurant, customers would become concerned and accuse me of employing minors. We solved that problem by getting them name tags that said ‘family member,’” Richardson recalled with a chuckle.
Richardson’s nametag title has evolved over the years, and today it simply reads: ‘Chief Encourager.’
“At this point, my role is to mentor the younger employees and allow them to learn by doing. I hope that their experience working here will have a lasting and positive impact on their lives,” Richardson said.
The restaurant began operating with 45 team members, but today it requires nearly 100 people to serve up the legendary breaded chicken sandwiches.
The coronavirus has made it tougher on everyone, employees and customers alike, but it hasn’t slowed the business. Richardson says they have become an exclusive drive-thru, mobile curbside business with the parking lot acting more like a staging area for cars. He also created a delivery service and estimates they make about 100 deliveries per day.
“We are so blessed by the trust and favor of the community and do all that we can to return the support. At last count, we work with 33 different schools in the area, helping to meet their various needs,” he said with a note of pride.
The school closest to his restaurant – and his heart – is Arcadia High where his boys go and where he gives much of his time serving as president of the football booster club and as a Young Life volunteer.
“The success of the business has allowed me to do more in the community, and I intend to do all that I can to give back and demonstrate the gratitude of my family.”