Updated: Slim Chickens in Willmar is delayed, TJ Maxx to open in August, Popeyes potentially still coming

Slim Chickens is delayed but still expected in Willmar, according to Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker. TJ Maxx is expected to open in August and Popeyes is potentially still coming.

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Editor’s note: This story has been substantially updated since original publication following clarifications from Willmar's planning director. First, the Slim Chickens restaurant is delayed but still planned, contrary to earlier reporting from the director's statements at a public meeting. Second, the concern expressed over exit and entry to the Popeyes planned restaurant from Willmar Avenue came from the city. The source of the concern was incorrect in the original story. Read an updated story on the Slim Chickens development here .

WILLMAR — Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker on May 11 gave an update to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission joint operations board on three new businesses slated to be opening this year in Willmar that the community is anxiously awaiting — Slim Chickens, TJ Maxx and Popeyes.

Slim Chickens

The plans for a Slim Chickens restaurant to open at the location of the former Pizza Hut "kind of evaporated," Walker said to the joint powers board, noting that there have been a few issues that are preventing it from moving forward. In a later interview the West Central Tribune, Walker described the situation as a "significant standstill" but said the restaurant is still planned at 1605 S. First St.

"Just not getting into the ground on time and then corporate kind of changed their design, so since corporate changed their design, then they have to resubmit and all this other stuff," Walker said. "Those are, like, self-inflicted things."

At a meeting in November, owner Steve Letnes had said he was currently developing 13 Slim Chickens, mostly in Minnesota. Willmar was to be the third behind Mankato and St. Cloud. Letnes described the restaurant as something between Chick-fil-A and Raising Canes.


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TJ Maxx

TJ Maxx is expected to open sometime in August, according to Walker. The soft goods retailer will be in the former Office Max building, located at 1901 S. First St.

Walker said he talked to the developer earlier this month.

Old Office Max store 110322.jpg
TJ Maxx is expected to open in August in Willmar. The developer and Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker spoke earlier in May and joked about the "available" sign needing to come down.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune file photo

"It was really funny, he was like, 'I should really take the available sign down' and I was like, 'you should, you really should. People are calling me about it all the time.'"

The plans to remodel the building were submitted a while ago and the work should be nearing completion, Walker added.


Popeyes restaurant is planned at the location of the former Dairy Queen on the northeast corner of Willmar Avenue and First Street.

There are still some disagreements related to access from Willmar Avenue, but " Popeyes is still coming," Walker said.

The owners want 75% access from Willmar Avenue, which would be both a right turn and a left turn to enter, and a right turn only to exit.


"We were like, ‘No.’ I said that at the outset. 'No, it has to be right-in and right-out on Willmar Avenue."

City Engineer Jared Voge of Bolton & Menk and the Willmar Public Works Department denied allowing 75% access.

"They’ve been saying that the deal was going to fall apart over it, but I doubt it," Walker said.

According to its website, the restaurant features a New Orleans-style menu with spicy chicken, fried shrimp and other regional items.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "West Central Tribune staff report." Often, the "West Central Tribune staff report" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

The West Central Tribune newsroom can be reached via email: or phone 320-235-1150.
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