Liliana Escalante is more than ready to reopen the Zoes Kitchen at 4855 Forest Drive — perhaps even as much as the Mediterranean casual franchise eatery’s corporate owners, who say the location was one of the chain’s five busiest nationwide prior to October’s flooding.
On Thursday, the restaurant will celebrate its official grand re-opening after being closed for more than seven months after flood waters wreaked havoc throughout the Midlands.
Escalante became manager of the Forest Drive location in October 2014, almost exactly one year prior to the flood. The Forest Drive Zoes was among the area’s many businesses that were completely gutted by water.
“We had pretty significant damage,” Escalante said. “Absolutely everything inside was removed.”
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The good news, Escalante said, is that the location was due for a major interior design overhaul — but probably not one as extensive as the one received after the flood, she said.
“It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise of sorts,” Escalante said. “The store is gorgeous — brand-new, fully updated from floor to ceiling. Every piece of the interior of my building is brand new.”
Another blessing came in the form of the restaurant’s die-hard customer support.
“It was mind-blowingly amazing,” Escalante said. “From day one people just showed up asking how they could help, what they could do. They have been incredibly supportive and have been willing to do what it takes to help us reopen.”
No employees were let go during the seven months the store was closed, Escalante said.
“We split the staff and sent half to the downtown (Columbia) location and half to the Lexington location,” she said, adding that, once again, dedicated Forest Drive customers stepped up to show support. “Our customers were so loyal they would drive all the way to those two locations to support us and our staff. They would show up at the other locations and ask how they could help us here on Forest Drive.”
As a thank you to the community, Zoës Kitchen is giving away “Zoës for a Year” in a Facebook contest that ends on opening day. The first 500 people to enter the contest will also receive an email for two complimentary entrees to the Forest Drive location. Additionally on opening day, all guests will be given a complimentary ZK Sports Cup, which can be brought in for free refills all month long.
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