Robert’s Famous Chicken Salad is made daily with the same recipe and quality ingredients as the original. It’s sold in Robert’s Grocery in Wrightsville Beach and is also available in most Harris Teeter stores.
Roberts Market going regional with famous chicken salad.
by Bob Tennant
Friday, November 28, 2008
In February, Roberts Market decided to expand its customer base beyond 31 N. Lumina Ave., where it has been serving one of the most coveted historical staples in Wrightsville Beach since 1919.
“People were ordering our chicken salad from all over the place — Atlanta, South Carolina, Charlotte, California,” said Jerry Allen, co-owner of Roberts Market, along with Allan Middleton. Many of the summer residents of Wrightsville Beach, Allen said, did not want to go the other half of the year without their chicken salad.
“The dry ice to keep it cool cost more than what we were sending,” Allen said.
In their first move to expand, Allen said he and Middleton decided to sell their chicken salad out of the Mayfaire Harris Teeter. “In the beginning, we worked it out so we could go into the Harris Teeter and make it in their kitchen,” Allen said. After their product sold exceptionally well, they began selling in two more Harris Teeters, the Porter’s Neck and Lumina Station locations.
Allen seemed a little surprised by the success and popularity of Roberts’ trademark deli item. Jerry Allen fills pint-sized containers with Roberts Famous Chicken Salad, which is being distributed in Harris Teeters throughout the Wilmington area. To illustrate, he told the story of a strange call from an unexpected place. “Someone was in the hospital in Atlanta, and they called us because all they wanted was our chicken salad,” Allen said.
Locally, Roberts’ chicken salad has developed something of a cult following, carrying with it a mystique usually reserved for items beyond the deli counter. “I would get chicken salad and a hug on special occasions,” said Janet Rushing, teacher at Noah’s Ark Children’s Center, who was lucky enough to land the local prince of chicken salad in her classroom, Jerry Allen’s son, Tanner. To show their appreciation of her generosity to their son, Rushing said, the Allen family would give their chicken salad as a gift. “It was really nice because I loved it,” Rushing said, “and I loved that family.”
Clear pint-sized containers now line the shelves in the deli section of Harris Teeter, and seem to fit in nicely among the specialty items, such as hummus and tabbouleh salad. A catchy, minimalist design is stamped across the side. With each ingredient represented by a simple drawing, the contents of each package are spelled out: “chicken + mayo + celery + a little bit of magic = Robert’s Famous Chicken Salad.” The store also sells shirts with the same design.
All nine Harris Teeters in the Wilmington area carry the product, and Allen said the goal is to be in all 180-plus North Carolina Harris Teeters by the end of the year.