Pictured, from left, Revenue Officer Debbie Murray, Attalla City Council members Duane Ball and Anthony Cylar, contractor Joey Jones, Attalla Mayor Larry Means, Guthrie’s owner Brian Crawford, human resource manager Kenneth Jacobs, Attalla City Council members Donald Oliver and Joe Hereford and Etowah County Commissioner Jamie Grant celebrate Guthrie’s official groundbreaking in Attalla.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
A beloved local franchise is expanding its horizons with an exciting future opportunity. Neighboring Walmart on Clarke Street SE in Attalla, Guthrie’s celebrated its groundbreaking on March 11 at the site of its new upcoming restaurant.
Attalla Mayor Larry Means and city and county officials gathered for the commemorative moment, joining Rainbow City Guthrie’s owner Brian Crawford in writing the next chapter of a presently successful series. Crawford emphasized the Rainbow City location’s prosperity, noting that several customers regularly travel from surrounding cities like Gadsden, Southside and Attalla.
“This is exciting to us,” said Means. “Mr. Crawford is a new friend and we couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
Although Crawford searched differing avenues for expansion, Attalla contacted him, developing a reliable and pleasant partnership with the business. The location’s close proximity to schools and residential areas, combined with its easy access, exemplifies Crawford’s hope for the Attalla restaurant’s future. He envisions the Attalla branch as a bridge that outstretches to other surrounding areas, where he can provide quality food and efficient service to more local customers.
“I have no doubt this location will be successful,” said Crawford. “The City of Attalla is a working-class city, and that’s what we are – working-class food. We’re not a five-star restaurant with a suit and tie. We want to service the people who work every day and work hard. We want to take [Guthrie’s] to the next level and be able to grow.”
Crawford noted the Attalla Guthrie’s will mirror the Rainbow City location, with its menu serving its classic collection of chicken fingers, fries, slaw and toast. The Attalla Guthrie’s conjures memories of the franchise’s inception, with Jasper native and founder Hal Guthrie opening his first chicken finger specialty restaurant in Auburn in 1982. The combination of Guthrie’s unique breading blend and world-famous sauce proved the perfect recipe for success, with locations sprouting statewide and throughout the country in the following years.
Crawford himself became affiliated with the restaurant when he served as an accountant for the Rainbow City location, working with the site’s original owner. As he learned the intricacies of the business, he made contacts with the corporate office and began working for the corporation. When the previous owner decided the day arrived to retire, Crawford picked up the torch, purchasing the restaurant and nurturing its growth ever since.
As he reflected on the aspects of his position he enjoyed the most, Crawford recalled a moment when Guthrie’s delivered an order for a pharmaceutical representative who serviced first responders. When he considered how the meals overjoyed those who received them, he understood how his actions (and that of his staff) brighten moods and uplift individuals throughout the community.
“Just like anything in service, you want to make people happy and give them a product,” said Crawford. “I tell all my employees, we respect people and we respect their money. People work hard for it, so I want to make them a little bit better by giving them something that they feel they deserve. [It’s about] pleasing the customer.”
Means reiterated Crawford’s excitement regarding the restaurant’s expansion into Attalla, noting that one man played an instrumental role in Guthrie’s arrival. Former Attalla city employee Tom Parker contacted Crawford a few years ago, expressing the city’s interest. Although Parker passed away in 2018, the seed he planted blossomed into a powerful partnership – one that Means and Crawford will never forget.
“Tom Parker is one of the big reasons this is here, I really believe that,” said Means. “He was always wanting to help Attalla, [to do] whatever was good for Attalla. [But] not just good for Attalla, everywhere.”
“Mayor Means and the council reaching out to us…that was a big deal,” said Crawford. “We spoke to some of the surrounding communities and didn’t get any positive feedback. Once the city contacted us when they knew we were looking, it has been nothing but easy – which means that the politics side of the City of Attalla is looking out for the citizens of Attalla.”