CAMDEN — Kent County’s newest McDonald’s restaurant marked its grand opening with a special ceremony, some Thunder and a large gift.
On Tuesday afternoon, Michael Meoli, president of Meoli Companies and franchise owner, along with his staff celebrated the store’s opening with a ceremonial “first bite,” instead of a conventional ribbon cutting, with members of the Delaware Thunder hockey team signing autographs and a $1,000 donation to Code Purple Delaware.
Meoli Companies’ 25th McDonald’s restaurant is now open at 60 East St. near U.S. 13 in Camden.
“It’s really about the growth of Camden. We were in the Walmart earlier and the better play was to be on a freestanding site to take advantage of what’s most important to us, drivethrough,” said Mr. Meoli.
For many years, Mr. Meoli operated a McDonald’s location inside the Camden Walmart, just south of its new restaurant.
“This is a community that we’ve been keeping an eye on for a long time, watching its growth. It’s great to be here,” he said. “Camden is robust, it’s growing. You can see it both commercially and residentially. We found a perfect spot to be.”
The McDonald’s Corp. had been watching the Camden area for three years and has owned the property on which the new store now stands for more than a year. Construction on the restaurant broke ground in August. Mr. Meoli said he wanted to open the store last month but was delayed a month waiting for equipment to arrive.
“Supply chain, we were a solid month late getting the restaurant open because of equipment delays,” he said.
The Camden location employs 57 people with 10 of those being part of the management staff.
“We are very pleased with the degree of interest, the interviews and the applications that came in, especially in this market that we are in,” Mr. Meoli said.
Part-time employees at the new restaurant will make $13 per hour, full-time employees with earn $15 per hour and management staff will make $19 per hour.
Tuesday’s opening marked a local milestone for the fast-food restaurant.
“It’s the first new McDonald’s in Kent County since 1998. It’s been 24 years,” Mr. Meoli said.
When asked what McDonald’s means to him, Mr. Meoli said, “It’s everything, my whole life.”
He is a second-generation franchisee. His family recently celebrated 50 years in the McDonald’s business. His father and uncle opened their first McDonald’s store in Edgewood, Maryland in 1972.
“I moved down here and bought McDonald’s in Rehoboth in 1991. So, it’s been 31 years in Delaware. Over those years, we’ve been able to grow. This is store number 25,” Mr. Meoli said.
When asked what his favorite menu item was, without hesitation, Mr. Meoli answered, “Quarter Pounder with cheese.”
The new store is outfitted with kiosks for ordering inside. It also has the traditional drivethrough service, but it also offers delivery and mobile ordering with the McDonald’s app.
The app has a feature called geofencing. So it knows when you have arrived to pick up your order, Mr. Meoli said.
During Tuesday afternoon’s opening celebration, Mr. Meoli announced that he was making a $1,000 donation to Code Purple Delaware. The organization’s mission is to help those suffering from homelessness, abuse, financial struggles, drug addiction and those experiencing hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Code Purple Delaware provides education, housing solutions, resources, counseling and guidance to those it serves.
When accepting the donation, Code Purple President Ennio Emmanuel said of Mr. Meoli, “He’s the real deal.”
Mr. Emmanuel went on to tell the crowd gathered in the Camden store about how the two met. At the start of the pandemic, Code Purple was delivering meals to folks impacted by COVID-19. While in Georgetown, he approached Mr. Meoli and explained what he was doing and was immediately given a stack of meal cards from McDonald’s.
“Its awesome how God places people in your life,” Mr. Emmanuel said. “Its about coming together and putting our forces together to make a real difference.”
Business editor Logan B. Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.
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