Roanokers rejoice as chain restaurant Chili’s comes to town

A well-timed parody Facebook page for the chain had many people doing double takes

Social media had people taking double takes in the Roanoke Valley. Roanoke is getting a Chili's!

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Social media had many people doing double takes in the Roanoke Valley on Tuesday. That’s because a running joke in the community has come true.

Roanoke County leaders announced Chili’s will join the growing lineup of new things at Tanglewood Mall. Roanokers are rejoicing in response, with many saying it’s a long time coming.

We can date the desire back to at least 2011 when a “Bring Chili’s to Roanoke” Facebook page first began, although it’s been on the Roanoke wish list for much longer. And now it’s official, Chili’s, a common chain restaurant, is coming and people in the Star City said they can’t believe it.

“You know, I was driving 45 minutes to an hour to Lynchburg of all places to get Chili’s, and it’s here and it’s in Tanglewood Mall, which is amazing,” Chili’s fan Matt Permenter said.

The disappointment, and for some, fury, was palpable when that Chili’s opened in neighboring Lynchburg five years ago. Numerous social media posts for a Roanoke Chili’s over the years always turned out to be hoaxes, including one coincidentally created in recent weeks. The community is enamored with it and one self-described superfan said the gag became larger than life.

“I think it’s been a fan favorite just because we have been wanting one for so long and we have not had that yet, and so now that it’s officially coming, we are so excited and I know I’m the biggest fan,” Ebony Hurt said.

Jokes aside, it’s a positive economic indicator for the region. Chili’s is the latest to announce its plans as part of the revitalization of Tanglewood Mall, where construction on Panda Express, Chipotle and Blaze Pizza among others continues. Roanoke County Economic Development Director Jill Loope said the location sealed the deal.

“Having the right site at the right time with the right secret sauce to pull it all together. The Tanglewood property represents a great location, it’s very dynamic, it’s growing,” Loope said.

So, if the region can finally score a Chili’s what does this mean for a Trader Joes, Costco or Dave and Busters?

That remains to be seen, but Loope said never say never.

“There is demand, and we know that we have opportunities for new investments here in the county and we’re trying to create new pathways to make that happen,” Loope said.

A new Popeyes will also go up at Tanglewood. There’s no word on when construction will begin.