Krystal recently announced that after 80 years, they are moving their corporate headquarters from Chattanooga to Atlanta. While this announcement ended up just being a blip on the local news because it occurred during presidential debate week, it still saddened me to the core.
For most of my 45 years I’ve enjoyed the gooey oniony mustard pickle taste of a good old-fashioned Krystal. When I was a little kid the four square inch burger seemed enormous, or at least just my size. The friendly Krystal Kritters danced around handing out stickers (and napkins) and all of my dreams came true. We didn’t question why a brown monkey, red walrus and yellow hippo were mysterious friends of the wild. We were just happy to get fries with that.
Then, when we got a little older, the Kritters were replaced by Cowboy Sid & Sheila The Wonder Horse. The crazed cowboy character with oversized hat and chaps and a stick horse with pearls and lipstick entertained our teenage minds, ever reminding us that gut bombs were available for our 3am drunken feedings. Now the innocence of our youth that Krystal helped perpetuate is being dashed by packing tape and moving trucks.
My first reaction to the news was why would anyone WANT to move to Atlanta? It’s a crime filled, filthy traffic jam full of hip-hop moguls, punk rock needle hounds, IKEA enthusiasts and cable television visionaries. It’s the sad punch line of a cruddy knock knock joke. Atlanta just sucks.
A brief statement from Krystal’s CEO explained that it would be more efficient to be closer to an airport with service to all of their major markets.
What!?! I can drive from here to Memphis faster than you can get from Marietta (or wherever their office park is located) to Hartsfield International Airport, walk from the parking lot into the terminal, ride the tram to the right concourse, walk an endless hallway and wait at a gate for an hour before boarding the (hopefully on-time) 20-minute flight to Graceland.
I wasn’t buying that lame excuse. The real shot to the heart however came when, even though the CEO was jerking the rug out from underneath a Chattanooga tradition engrained in our local DNA like Coca Cola, he had the audacity to complete his statement with a completely patronizing “We do hope Chattanoogans will continue to take home sackfuls of Krystals.”
While the trend of most companies these days is to focus on corporate tax breaks and employee quality of life while taking advantage of utilities such as Chattanooga’s own GIG network capabilities, Krystal is moving in completely the opposite direction. There’s no GIG network in Atlanta. There’s no Riverwalk, walking bridge, Coolidge Park, climbing walls, sculpture gardens, bike lanes, Bike Share Program or other nice family-oriented outdoor activities. There’s not even affordable urban housing in Atlanta. All Atlanta has to offer is two-hour daily commutes and an airport that apparently Krystal executives desperately need to fly between grease traps across the Southeast.
What a backwards ass way of corporate growth. I can hear the conversation between Krystal’s Mr. Burns and Smithers now. “Sir, Volkswagen has chosen Chattanooga as their North American headquarters but I’ll continue packing up your office for the big move to Atlanta.” “Ex-cellent.”
Growing up with Krystal as the fifth food group I never knew how McDonald’s or Wendy’s was founded, but Chattanooga’s Krystal story was always top of mind. But, as the old saying goes, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.