Two Mondays ago, I got a public-relations email saying that the Huey Magoo’s Chicken Tenders restaurant in McComb was opening for business that day, with a formal ribbon-cutting grand opening set for two days later.

That’s good news, I remember thinking. I use Anna Drive, where the restaurant is located, each day to travel between work and home, and I had enjoyed the construction competition between this building and the nearby Zaxby’s. I knew Huey Magoo’s finished first because at night I could see new employees being trained in the building.

I did wonder if the week between Christmas and New Year’s was a good time to open a new restaurant. But anyone who’s driven down Anna Drive lately has learned that the timing was excellent.

Ever since that first day of Dec. 28, there regularly has been a line of cars backed up on the street, waiting to order drive-thru food.

That certainly caught me off guard the first night, when I was driving home about 7 p.m. and ran up against a pretty long line of cars in the southbound lane. After waiting for an oncoming car to pass, I zipped around the line and continued on home.

I was just as surprised a couple of hours later, when I had to return to the office unexpectedly. It was 9:15 p.m. and there was still a line of cars in the street. Not as long as the line of two hours prior, but it was obvious that the restaurant had an outstanding opening day.

This continued for Huey Magoo’s entire first week. I felt sorry for the employees, who were new to the business but had to handle an endless stream of orders that had to exceed everybody’s predictions.

I read two online posts that McComb police had warned drivers in line on Anna Drive that they might be ticketed, but never confirmed it. I hope the police gave the drivers a free pass on this one.

I have seen franchise owner Buddy Powell directing traffic on the street at least three times since the store opened. That’s a challenge on a two-lane street. It sometimes became a three-laner when drivers in both directions were unwilling to wait. Fortunately there have not been any serious problems.

Drivers who are not in line do have to be creative. At least twice, I have cut into the Fit Life parking lot across the street from the restaurant and driven past the main building to the tennis courts. That got me past the entrance to Huey Magoo’s, and I could exit south and continue on home.

I’m glad for Powell and his family that the opening has been extra busy. They actually are good at opening restaurants during tough times.

They’ve owned the Golden Corral in McComb for 30 years, and in late 2008, when the country was slogging through the Great Recession, they opened the Corral’s new, gigantic buffet location, also on Anna Drive.

Over the next few years, Powell will be busy all around the state. He owns the Huey Magoo’s franchises for all of Mississippi, and something like 20 more restaurants are planned.

In McComb, the demand for chicken tenders was such that, when Mary Ann and I drove by the restaurant at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, the line of cars had filled the parking lot. It was a matter of time before it spilled onto the street.

It was not until Thursday, two nights ago, that I drove home and saw no line on Anna Drive. The restaurant’s drive-thru line still covered the whole parking lot, but at least the risk on the street was gone.

It certainly will be interesting to see how Huey Magoo’s first days compares to Zaxby’s (also owned by some Southwest Mississippi people) when that store opens in the next few weeks.

Looking at the big picture, I think Powell’s daughter Kristi was right when she surmised that one reason the opening business was so strong is that a lot of local people know her family from Golden Corral.

Don’t anybody take this the wrong way, but chicken tenders are not new in McComb. I hope to get into Huey Magoo’s next week, but no way was I going to wait 30 or 45 minutes.

I’ll bet people endured the line to try a new restaurant, but especially because it was one little step away from the pandemic and back toward normal — that promised land we’re all so eager to find.

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