Just a year and a half after opening, Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles is shutting down its North Little Rock location for a move to Conway. Ceci’s is planning a June 5 grand opening at its new location at 1600 Dave Ward Dr. Its final day in North Little Rock is tentatively set for May 28. For owner Ciceley McDowell, the choice to move to Conway is one that makes sense.
“Little Rock to me is too congested as far as food goes,” said McDowell. “North Little Rock and McCain, the only thing that was open was the mall, which I didn’t want to go there. Conway had been something I was thinking of for a possible second location. There are the college kids, the food scene is growing. The location is great.”
McDowell says the choice to leave her current location was a business decision. While the old building at 13th Street has tons of charm, problems with parking outside and air conditioning inside made it tough to attract guests. In addition, Ceci’s was limited in its hours because of the neighborhood. While her lease wouldn’t have been over until October, McDowell said she didn’t want to put up with the heat in her dining room for another year.
“The new location (in Conway) has a professional ice maker,” said McDowell. “It’s got a professional dishwasher. It has working heat and A/C. It used to be a restaurant, so it’s built for that. It just had everything I needed.”
Ceci’s will move into the space previously occupied by Bleu Flame Burger, which closed when the owner left for personal reasons. Just a mile from UCA, the location has about 40 percent more seating than Ceci’s currently has. It also has a drive-thru, which McDowell plans to make full use of in the coming months. The turnkey nature of the building means McDowell can focus on marketing, menu development and staff training in the coming weeks.
“When I opened up Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles, I had $300 to my name, two kids and was three months behind on my rent,” said McDowell. “But I was so determined to get it open, I scrubbed the floors until my hands were raw. And now, I’m going somewhere that has everything I need. It gives me a lot of freedom to make this what I want it to be.”
Ceci’s is McDowell’s first time working in the food business, and it’s a testament to her skill in the kitchen, relentless work ethic and whip-smart sensibilities that the restaurant has done so well. Now McDowell is poised to present her outstanding chicken and waffles and soul food menu to Conway, which is starting to develop its own impressive food scene. McDowell says she’s ready to make her mark in Faulkner County.
“You know, it’s another faith move,” said McDowell. “It’s a vision that I had, and I’m going to do it like I did with the first one. This time, I know the business and what it takes.”