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Shawn and Brittany Eby pose for a portrait in front of the Church’s Chicken they’re building at Ridge Road and East Pershing Boulevard on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. They said they plan to have the restaurant open by Cheyenne Frontier Days in July. Valerie Mosley/For the Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – A new Church’s Chicken restaurant under construction near the intersection of Ridge Road and Pershing Boulevard is expected to open in July as part of a cluster of new development in the area.

“We’re trying to get open before Frontier Days,” said Shawn Eby, who owns Goalz Restaurant Group LLC with his wife, Brittany. “A lot of it just depends on the weather and equipment deliveries. It’s gonna be really close, but we think we’ll make it. They’re going really quick.”

He said it typically takes 120-130 days to build a restaurant, but he hopes to get this one completed in 90 days.

The fast-food restaurant specializing in fried chicken is the first of three restaurants the Goalz Restaurant Group plans to open in Cheyenne.

The Ebys hope to break ground on a new Dog Haus restaurant near Pershing Boulevard and College Drive in the next week or so, with opening sometime in October. That restaurant, which offers gourmet hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers, along with craft beer and an outdoor patio, will be located next to a Qdoba restaurant that is currently under construction.

The third, a Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen planned for a nearby site across Pershing from the Jimmy John’s restaurant, is awaiting final franchise approvals.

“It just seems like the growth is going this way, but there aren’t a lot of places to eat on this side of town,” Brittany Eby said.

The Church’s Chicken was first announced in 2017, but it has taken longer than initially expected to work out the details, including negotiations with the franchise and investors.

Shawn Eby called Cheyenne a “fantastic” market for restaurants, but added that it has taken awhile to convince the brands that, even though the population is relatively small, local residents socialize often and eat out more frequently than other communities.

“Everybody knows everybody in Cheyenne,” he said. “It’s the biggest small town I know.”

Shawn Eby has worked in restaurants since age 17, starting at a Dairy Queen in Michigan and working his way up to corporate and franchise management positions at various fast-food brands before launching Goalz Restaurant Group in 2017. The idea for the business name came from a goal-setting class he taught, and the Ebys have aggressive goals to open 200 restaurants throughout the United States.

“We certainly can’t do it by ourselves for that large of a company,” Shawn Eby said. “That’s why we have two vice presidents of operations (Wade Lancaster and Jeron Boemer). They get equity in each restaurant that they’re running. So, it’s kind of like having two mini-companies, and they can oversee those. We can oversee the ones in Cheyenne. We also bring in district partners, and they get equity in the company, as well.”

The company currently has four restaurants open, nine under construction and about 450 employees.

Their current restaurants are located in North Carolina, Illinois, Georgia and Alabama, and include one each of Church’s Chicken, Dog Haus, Captain D’s and Dairy Queen.

Brittany Eby, who was born and raised in Cheyenne, also got her start at a local Dairy Queen, so it seemed natural for the couple to include the brand in their portfolio of restaurants. But they won’t open a Dairy Queen in Cheyenne, where the brand’s franchise rights are already spoken for.

When the Ebys were negotiating franchise agreements with the four brands, one of their stipulations was that they would open restaurants in Cheyenne.

“I’ve always believed in Cheyenne,” Brittany Eby said. “I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.”

The Ebys are raising their two sons in Cheyenne, and their business has donated to such causes as the Depot Plaza Splash Pad, Rooted in Cheyenne and WYCO Baseball.

Each restaurant will employ between 40 and 60 people, and hiring for the Church’s Chicken location will begin in June.

“Cheyenne’s difficult for hiring, especially since there’s so many restaurants,” Shawn Eby said. “We know so many people, and a lot of people are always interested in a brand-new restaurant. I think the key is just taking care of the employees and making sure they’re happy.”

The Ebys may eventually open second locations in Cheyenne of Church’s Chicken, Dog Haus and Captain D’s.

“We’ve just got to see how the first year goes,” Shawn Eby said.

Jonna Lorenz is a freelance journalist living in Cheyenne who has more than 20 years of experience. She can be reached by email at jonnalorenz@gmail.com.

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