Retail Watch: Restaurant backed by Shaq to open in Pocono Premium Outlets (2023)

Big Chicken, the fast casual chicken concept founded by basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, announced recently that it has signed a lease with a local restaurant group to open a restaurant later this year in the Pocono Premium Outlets in Tannersville.

Founded in 2018, Big Chicken is backed by partners; JRS Hospitality of Las Vegas, Authentic Brands Group of New York City, and O’Neal.

Big Chicken fuses O’Neal’s home-cooked childhood favorites with today’s trending flavors. It offers crispy chicken sandwiches and tenders, crusted mac n’ cheese and hand-crafted ice cream shakes. Each menu item tells a story all while offering guests an inside look into O’Neal’s life and personality, according to information on

Big Chicken has restaurants in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Gilbert, Arizona, and Dayton, Ohio. It also has restaurants in arenas as well as one in the Comcast Center in Philadelphia and on three Carnival Cruise ships.

Retail Watch: Restaurant backed by Shaq to open in Pocono Premium Outlets (1)

The new restaurant is part of a larger, multi-unit deal with restaurant group Memo II.

“We’re thrilled to begin developing my first location with Big Chicken,” said a representative from Memo II in a news release on “Our team can’t wait to finally open our doors to Tannersville and the surrounding communities. We know they’re going to love the creative and flavorful menu items that we have to offer, and we’re looking forward to being able to share in the BIG fun with our guests.”

In the past 15 years, Memo II has managed several Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins locations, as well as owned three Italian restaurants. Memo II chose to partner with Big Chicken due to their love for the food, aesthetic of the restaurant and the support from the Big Chicken team and its franchisee community, the news release said.

“Memo II is the perfect partner to make a BIG entrance into Pennsylvania with, and we’re thrilled to be bringing Big Chicken to guests in Tannersville,” said Josh Halpern, CEO of Big Chicken. “I can’t think of anyone else as passionate about bringing BIG flavor, BIG food and BIG fun to The Poconos.”

Name change and expansion

A Quakertown business is not only changing its name, but it’s planning to expand into the Lehigh Valley in 2023.

Mercatino Italiano, formerly Giacomo’s Italian Market Quakertown, announced in a Facebook post the name change and the expected expansion.

The post read:

“We have a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! Since the opening of our business in 2020 we could not have imagined how much our concept would take off the way it has. From the dream in our heads to the reality of what we have built we are extremely humbled and blessed to have our vision come to life. We have so much more we would like to do and while we are emotionally attached to our name, we realize that in order to expand, move forward and serve our customers best, we need to change. We need to be different. We take pride in our brand, what we offer and who we are. With that being said, we are thrilled to announce our new name — MERCATINO ITALIANO!”

The post continued, “And with change, comes growth … we will be opening a second location on 3rd Street in Bethlehem coming in 2024!”

The Quakertown business had been sued in federal court in May by Giacomo’s Inc., an Italian market and deli at 700 Cattell St. in Easton, claiming trademark infringement, service mark infringement and false advertising.

The lawsuit alleged that the font used on the signage of the Quakertown business was virtually identical to that used by the Giacomo’s in Easton.

The lawsuit also alleged that beginning in January 2021 customers were confusing the two establishments, including callers trying to place orders at the Easton store that were meant for the Quakertown store; customers trying to pick up orders at the Easton store that were placed at the Quakertown store, and customers attempting to redeem gift cards at the Easton store that were meant for the Quakertown store.

Chick-fil-A reopens

The Chick-fil-A restaurant on Hamilton Boulevard in Lower Macungie Township, which had been closed since May 18, reopened Wednesday, a day later than planned.

The restaurant opened Wednesday, not Tuesday, as originally hoped, according to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, we experienced a delay in our initial opening plans,” the Facebook post said. “We understand that this may have caused inconvenience to those who were eagerly anticipating our reopening. We sincerely apologize for any frustration or disappointment this may have caused.

“Our team has been working diligently to ensure that everything is in place for a remarkable experience when you walk through our doors.”

The restaurant had been closed because of a host of upgrades being made, including improvements to the kitchen and dining room and a double drive-thru.

After its opening Wednesday, the restaurant posted, “After much anticipation, we are thrilled to announce that the wait is finally over and we are now officially open! We are open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. We can’t wait to see you today!”

Lehigh Valley Mall getting new tenant

JD Sports, described as a leading retailer of fashionable sportswear and sneakers, with brands such as Nike, adidas, Jordan, Champion, Vans and The North Face along with Pink Soda Sport and Supply & Demand, is coming to the Lehigh Valley Mall, according to a post on the mall’s website.

According to the mall’s map, JD Sports will be located on the second level between Zales Jewelers and Against All Odds.

JD Sports has about 160 stores in the United States, including seven in Pennsylvania. The closest stores to the Lehigh Valley are in Lancaster, Willow Grove and Philadelphia.

Funky Ferments Fest

The process of fermentation will take center stage on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Easton Farmers Market’s second annual Funky Ferments Fest, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Scott Park.

Fermented foods that will be celebrated include locally brewed beer, kombucha, pickles, stinky cheese, tangy farm-fresh yogurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi and more along with more adventurous and experimental foods and beverages such as rye kvass, coffee kombucha and hibiscus honey cold brew.

There will be a number of contests on fermentation, including a homebrew kombucha contest. Starting at 11 a.m., local amateurs will showcase their artisanal fermenting skills. Each contestant can enter up to three flavors at $5 per entry. Each contestant must bring a gallon of each entry with the only labeling being the ingredients and flavor. A panel of local kombucha experts will award a trophy and $50 cash prize. The People’s Choice Prize will win $25 in Market tokens and an Easton Farmers Market tote and T-shirt. Enter at

There will also be a make-your-own kraut and kimchi station, a culture swap table where you can trade and share sourdough starters, scobys, booch and more. Items should be packed individually and clearly labeled with care instructions provided if necessary.

Lectures and workshops include mushroom cultivation and nutrition (Matthew Sicher, Primordia Mushroom Farm); wild mushroom foraging (Jeff Mertz, Wildspawn Mushrooms); ins and outs of fermentation (Erik Sink, Untamed Ferments); make your own kombucha (Don Devault, Portch Tea); cheese and yogurt tasting (Raspberry Ridge Sheep Creamery); a kids fermentation station (presented by The Culture Club).

There will also be a Probiotic Petting Zoo featuring kombucha, where families can touch and feel live kombucha scobys. “Yummy for My Tummy” storytime and tasting featuring an interactive experience where kids will explore the foods in a book through tasting samples of kombucha, sourdough, milk kefir, beet kvass and pickles.

An art area for kids with coloring sheets, dry erase activity placemats and a temporary tattoo parlor with eco-friendly veggie themed tats.

Cerviche will provide live music from 10 a.m. to noon.

Free parking will be available in the two lots adjacent to Scott Park. Visit for online ordering information for participating vendors.

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