The Toombs family is one of many former Californians who have fallen prey to Oregon’s charm. When they relocated last August they brought with them the dream of opening their own restaurant.

“We had an opportunity to possibly open with the owner [of the Chicken Shack in Hanford, Calif.] down there and, instead, decided we wanted to relocate,” said Markey Toombs.

The Keizer location will be in Keizer Village shopping center where El Patron Mexican Grill closed in early March prior to the pandemic. The Chicken Shack has one other Oregon location in Klamath Falls. 

Toombs was in the marketing industry and his wife, Monica, worked in education before they decided to open The Chicken Shack. They have two children, ages 16 and 11 that are enrolled in school in Central School District, who will also be helping at the restaurant.

According to Toombs, the closest thing to The Chicken Shack is Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in Portland. “We’re excited to try and be kind of first-to-market, in our opinion, in the area,” Toombs said.

Though it is a chicken restaurant, it is unlike Popeyes, KFC or Chic-fil-A. 

“We specialize in jumbo chicken fingers, jumbo chicken wings and fries, along with burgers, wraps [and] salads. We’re more of the chicken finger type place,” Toombs said.

The Toombs live in Independence, but have been keeping an eye out for businesses locations in Keizer, which reminds them of their hometown. Their hometown, Hanford, Calif., has a population of about 55,000 comparative to Keizer’s 40,000.

“We couldn’t have been blessed with a better location and community than Keizer ... that prayer led to a location that we think is a really spot on for what we’re looking to do,” Toombs said.

What they’re looking to do, beyond open a restaurant that sells chicken, is to create a community and family atmosphere. 

Markey and Monica Toombs.

“I just really hope that [the community] can come to our restaurant and feel what Monica and I have always tried to do. We’ve always tried to be an open door home where people can come, relax and feel a part of a family,” Toombs said. “We’re really excited to be right next to our partners in Keizer Village because each business there brings that element.”

Though they haven’t opened for business yet, Toombs said the interactions they’ve already had with the community (lease negotiations, etc.) have been good. “They were very patient, versatile, very easy to work with through this process,” he said of the landlords at the Keizer Village.

The opening is planned for August but is subject to rules of Marion County’s reopening.

“We hope that the restaurant opening at this time will hopefully serve as an encouragement to people that things can happen and bloom in hardships like [the COVID-19 pandemic],” Toombs said.

In addition to being a glimmer of hope, opening during the pandemic offers certain advantages. 

“It’s funny. For most people, COVID is going to present some situations where kids will be limited in their actual onsite learning. Our kids are happy because they know if they’re not at school they get to come [to the restaurant],” Toombs said.

Toombs said both of their children are excited to be a part of the new family business.

“All they knew was California before they moved here, so for this to be a situation where they’re excited about what's coming up a year after they’ve gotten here, we’re really excited for them,” Toombs said. “We want to be a place that serves the whole community and lets them feel like they’re at home.”