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The Very First Chick-fil-A Restaurant Closes at Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta

It appears the very first Chick-fil-A restaurant is set to close Saturday, May 20, after nearly 56 years at Greenbriar Mall, according to multiple local news outlets and signs posted at the food court stall. Google and the restaurant’s Facebook page list the location as “permanently closed.”

Signs at the Greenbriar Mall location indicate Chick-fil-A opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday and closes by 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Chick-fil-A was born from the success of another metro Atlanta landmark restaurant owned by its late founder Truett Cathy, the Dwarf Grill (later renamed the Dwarf House) in Hapeville, which opened in 1946. The Hapeville restaurant was also the birthplace of the Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwich. Cathy eventually licensed the fried chicken sandwich to several area restaurants and later built an entire fast food empire around it, starting with the first location of Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall in 1967.

It’s unclear why the company is closing its historic Greenbriar Mall location, or if employees there will be given jobs at other Chick-fil-A locations in Atlanta. Chick-fil-A has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment on the decision to close at Greenbriar Mall.

For many native and longtime Atlantans, the closure of this particular Chick-fil-A is the end of an era. For others, it’s another sign that the malls of yore lack the appeal they once enjoyed, as people prefer the convenience of online shopping. Most of the once bustling malls across America now feature vacant storefronts and half-empty parking lots. Gone, too, are the days when flocks of teenagers would hang out at the mall to shop, socialize, and eat after school and on weekends.

Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall in 1967 in Atlanta.

Chick-fil-A at Greenbriar Mall in 1967

So, what is the future of Greenbriar Mall as Chick-fil-A and other major brands and anchor tenants depart the shopping complex? Metro Atlanta malls like Stonecrest, North DeKalb Mall, and North Point Mall are undergoing major multi-million dollar revamps in order to create mixed-use developments and entertainment districts filled with housing, offices, retail, and restaurants, as well as green spaces for outdoor community events.

The old Sears building at the Mall at Stonecrest is becoming a 13-stall food hall in 2024 to include local spots like the Atlanta Breakfast Club, the Original Hot Dog Factory, and Dope Coffee. The refreshed complex already includes SeaQuest aquarium. North DeKalb Mall is transforming into Lulah Hills, a 73-acre development complete with apartments, townhomes, a hotel, walking trails, and new retail and restaurants. And proposals to redo the sprawling North Point Mall complex in Alpharetta into a work-live-play district continue to be discussed.

Back in 2021, Atlanta food and culture writer Mike Jordan wrote about what he called “the ghost of Christmas past­” at Greenbriar Mall for Atlanta magazine, speculating on the mall’s future and reflecting on its past. That past included Atlanta music producer Jermaine Dupri discovering a couple of kids there who would later become the hip-hop duo Kris Kross. Today, Greenbriar Mall is still a magnet for Atlanta sneakerheads, frequenting stores like Foot Locker and Footaction.

Last year, Jordan wrote about all of the new development occurring around Greenbriar Mall for Capital B Atlanta, asking local residents to share their thoughts on the future plans for the surrounding area. Affordable housing and amenities and restaurants catering to people already living near the aging mall were top priorities.

“Now that one of the last major brands is leaving Greenbriar — one that’s been incredibly successful, and whose corporate headquarters is based here in the Atlanta area — you have to wonder how Greenbriar continues to attract enough customers to sustain a legitimate means of survival,” Jordan says of the Chick-fil-A closure.

“It’s not like Chick-fil-A was keeping the lights on, but they’re certainly going to be even dimmer at Greenbriar with this unique landmark going away,” he adds.

Nearly six decades after opening at Greenbriar Mall, there are now over 3,000 Chick-fil-A restaurants worldwide. All of these locations are famously closed on Sundays, a nod to Chick-fil-A’s conservative-leaning reputation. As Chick-fil-A restaurants open in new markets, the company also continues to grapple with its socially and politically conservative stances and a long history of donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ agendas. Attempts have been made in recent years to clarify the company’s messaging around these issues and to take “a more focused giving approach.”

2841 Greenbriar Parkway, Atlanta.

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