Chicken salad is a sweet spring hallmark for those of us living in an all-weather climate. One where a day in mid-April can wax and wane and we find ourselves trudging through snow, watery sunshine, rain and chilly temperatures, just when we thought it might be safe to pull out the flip flops.

We northerners carry around a lot of hope for spring to stick around. As soon as tulips start pushing their colorful heads out of the earth, who doesn’t pack away the Dutch ovens, thankful that chili and stew season can finally be shelved for a while?

But down south, say Alabama, for example, the blend of shredded chicken, herbs and celery offers a vision of what life lived slowly in a place where the sun mostly shines might be like.

The fast-casual’s decor is an immediate draw, with olive green bead board, crown moulding and pops of whimsical red flowers. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

That’s one reason why, when Coloradans Jessica Zumbrun and her husband David Zumbrun first walked into a Chicken Salad Chick fast-casual restaurant during a golf trip in Auburn, Ala. — home to the booming franchise’s first shop —they became enamored with the hospitality, food and concept developed by stay-at-home mom, Stacy Brown.

The fast-casual’s decor is an immediate draw that makes you want to pull up a chair and sit a spell. Beadboard painted chic olive green, pops of whimsical red flowers, touches of black in the cabinetry (yes, there’s even cabinetry at the checkout counter) and elegant touches of crown moulding transport chicken salad cravers smack dab into a cover shot of the wisteria-bedecked Southern design magazine, Veranda.

Mint green walls sparked with pithy Southern gal tongue-in-cheek signage — there’s plenty of playful wit delivered with a double entendre smirk — seal the deal that this place is pure fun.

Zumbrun said she and her husband had been trying to open a Chicken Salad Chick franchise in northern Colorado since 2019. But it wasn’t only the girly decor that hooked them and drove the busy couple to pursue what seemed a perfect fit.

Chicken Salad Chick has catering platters for your next party or holiday gathering to make entertaining a piece of cake. (Courtesy/Chicken Salad Chick)

“The motto, ‘Spread joy, enrich lives and serve others’ really resonated with us,” Jessica Zumbrun said.

She is the director at McDonald Toyota in Greeley, and the couple serves on many non-profit boards, including the Boys & Girls Club of Weld County. Jessica Zumbrun also sits on the Weld Community Foundation board, the Colorado Auto Dealer’s Association and David Zumbrun serves on the Life Stories Child Advocacy board.

Part of what cemented their commitment to opening five franchises in the northern Colorado region was Brown’s story of how she evolved the concept, including the Alabama woman’s strength and courage to see it through.

Chicken Salad Chick in the Bear Paw III Shopping Center in West Greeley offers fast casual chicken salads, sandwiches, soups and side salads. There is also dine-in, drive-thru and delivery. (Courtesy/Santora Photo Co.)

Brown, a divorced mother of three small children, had always wanted to start a business. Similar to many southern women, Brown said in an NPR interview that she was a good cook who was obsessed with chicken salad, long considered a staple of southern cuisine.

She used a fork-in method to research, ordering chicken salad at every restaurant she could to analyze the best recipe. Her favorite pulls flavors from a variety of elements and Brown experimented with textures and techniques for preparing the chicken until she hit the sweet spot.

Her very first recipe, the Classic Carol, pairs finely shredded boiled white meat chicken tenderloins, minced celery, mayo and seasoning. It’s what Brown calls “the classic Southern lady,” and it’s what you’d think of spooned onto buttery Club crackers or spread between two pieces of cocktail bread at an afternoon tea.

But the Classic Carol is where the atypical Brown became a powerhouse, mirroring Scarlett O’Hara’s steely backbone in her will to never give in to one disaster after another.

Chicken Salad Chick’s southern-style chicken salad is made with shredded white meat and come in twelve choices of flavors. Shown is the Fancy Nancy, a classic with cranberries and nuts served with organic grain crackers. (Courtesy/Chicken Salad Chick)

After hitting on a perfect scratch-made recipe, Brown peddled plastic containers of chicken salad to local hair salons and schools, until she ran into trouble with the local health department because she wasn’t operating out of a commercial kitchen. She, along with her business partner Kevin, who soon became her second husband, rocketed to success after a slow start in Auburn, Ala. in January 2008. They sold salad out of an 800-square-foot building that only served lunch and take-out.

More trials and tribulations were to come, including losing Kevin to stage IV colon cancer as well as starts and stops with finding funding to franchise the concept. The first franchise opened in Montgomery, Ala. and now with over 200 locations, Chicken Salad Chick saw 186% growth in 2022, according to Inc. Magazine’s 5000 list.

Her goal, Brown said in the NPR interview, is to become “America’s place for chicken salad and bring the taste of the South to the entire country.”

Today, chicken salad lovers can choose from 12 flavors scratch made daily. They run the gamut from tame to spicy, like the Jalapeño Holly or Kickin’ Kay Lynne, which is named for Brown’s feisty red-headed aunt and is loaded with bacon, shredded cheddar and jalapeños and heated up with buffalo sauce and Sriracha.

Welcoming touches transport chicken salad cravers smack dab into a cover shot of the wisteria-bedecked Southern design magazine, Veranda. (Credit/Emily Kemme)

On the tamer side, Lauryn’s lemon basil is herbal and fresh without being overpowering. The Dixie Chick is chock full of onions so pack some breath mints if you’re on a date or plan to get one. Other classics include the Fancy Nancy with Fuji apples, grapes and pecans and Olivia’s Old South, a traditional sweet pickles and egg combo.

All 12 chicken salad styles are named after Brown’s friends or family.

And if you’re wondering about Pimento cheese, a cheese ball blend of grated sharp cheddar and pepper jack that’s a “must have” at every Southern holiday party, it also gets a special place on the menu.

So sip a sweet tea, dip your fork into the chicken salad of your choice and kick back and relax, southern-style, y’all.

Chicken Salad Chick offers food to-go for an easy office lunch, quick gathering or eating on the run at your kid’s soccer practice. (Courtesy/Chicken Salad Chick)

To Go:

Chicken Salad Chick of Greeley, 4144 24th St. Road, Unit 2B

Hours of operation: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

Fast-casual chicken salad, sandwiches, soups, side salads, lemonade, sweet tea, watermelon tea | Catering | In-store dining, pick-up, drive-thru, delivery

For more information call (970) 456-5146 or go to

This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune