By Haley Ausbun / Renton Reporter
RENTON — Many customers were surprised to see a sign on Heaven Sent Fried Chicken in downtown Renton announcing its Feb. 23 closure.
On Monday, folks were still driving up to the restaurant only to leave chickenless. On the sign, Heaven Sent owner Ezell Stephens said the location is closing due to unfinished repairs needed on the building.
Stephens wrote that these issues, such as a leak in the roof, made it impossible to continue.
In a phone interview Tuesday, he said those problems were a blessing in disguise because he wanted to focus more on his south Everett store. He said he thanks the landlord for giving him the opportunity to leave.
When asked if he will come back to south King County, Stephens said he intends to open stores all over the world. He said returning to the Everett store allows him to work on a franchise model.
He said the Renton location wouldn’t help him work on his franchise due to its small size. Stephens said he had about eight employees at that location.
Stephens added he will now focus on creating a gluten-free menu for his Everett store, that he said might begin as soon as March 15.
His Everett store seats 50 people and runs his regular and gluten-free kitchens.
Renton Reporter covered the opening of the downtown location in 2011. It was Stephen’s only Heaven Sent location that was not originally an Ezell’s Famous Chicken.
Stephens started Heaven Sent after a legal battle with other founders of Ezell’s Famous Chicken, who got to keep the name and most of the locations. Before that, Oprah Winfrey gave Ezell’s a big boost when she called the restaurant’s fried chicken “the best” on her television show in the 1990s.
Four months ago, an Ezell’s Famous Chicken opened in Renton near the Renton Municipal Airport. Stephens said their appearance in downtown Renton had no impact on his closure, and claims his sales increased afterward.
Meanwhile, the I Heart Renton mural presses on an empty Heaven Sent.
Stephens said he wants Renton customers to try not to eat too much other chicken until his return. And if they want it, Heaven Sent is still available in Lake City and Everett.
“I’ll be loving Renton until I get back,” Stephens said.
The Renton Reporter is a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.