The Chicken Coop

On a sweltering summer afternoon, a family of four—the Tatums—seasons, fries, and assembles fried-chicken wing meals for an ever-growing line of people outside of their food truck. Fresh food provides a welcome distraction from the heat to customers who’ve waited for over half an hour for their food—an indictor not of the service available from the business, but the number of orders needing fulfillment. This popularity can largely be attributed to the quality of food available at this establishment: The Chicken Coop. However, the relational and welcoming atmosphere from the Tatum’s breeds a sense of familiarity between worker and customer, undoubtedly forging a loyal customer base. This was the desire of the Tatum family after moving from Arkansas to Amarillo a decade ago.

A customer outside of The Chicken Coop

Derrick Tatum’s railroad work brought him and his family to Dalhart, TX in 2014. His wife’s—Shalanda Tatum’s—work for the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association created an easier career transition than would have been otherwise, but one of the region’s major differences was a culture shock to the family. Though many chain establishments are present, the lack of local chicken shops in Amarillo was starkly different from their abundance in Arkansas. According to Arkansas Money and Politics, “the state ranks third in the nation in broiler [chicken] production and value,” which has undoubtedly impacted the local cuisine (Carter, 2024). The Tatums’ experience with cooking chicken as a family tradition grew into a desire to establish an institution like the ones they’d grown accustomed to in Arkansas.

Setting up a culinary business did not come without its challenges and an extended time commitment. In addition to the expected challenges that arise from starting a food truck—starting investments, menu item decisions, finding suppliers, pricing, etc.—there remained greater difficulties. In the same three-year time span that an immediate family member experienced an accident, a close family member died—Shalanda’s mother. The Tatum family has honored her and her legacy of cooking for her family and neighborhood through a menu item named in her memory. After this difficult three-year period, The Chicken Coop was opened in 2023.

The obstacles and adversity The Chicken Coop faced before opening have been met with continuous support from the Amarillo community. Popular event attendance and selling out are frequent occurrences for the food truck, ensuring that the Tatum family maintain a bustling energy in the kitchen during all open hours. This immense support has not gone unnoticed from The Chicken Coop, and Derrick has noted the reciprocal nature that comes with local support. The effort and resources that are put into local businesses is important for understanding why so much support is needed to keep them alive. With this understanding in mind, The Chicken Coop sources all chicken from a West Texas company and all sauces locally, providing a boon to the local agricultural sector of the economy that has continued to support them.

Sources:

Carter, M. (2024, May 15). Big numbers, big impact: Poultry industry plays large in Arkansas. AMP. https://armoneyandpolitics.com/poultry-industry-plays-large-in-arkansas/

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