Photography by Danny Fulgencio
The 25-year-old is the great- granddaughter of Herman Henderson, whose original Chicken Shack restaurant opened downtown in 1948. Henderson’s Chicken grew to include several locations, and another branch of the family still operates the chain.
Mackenzie’s dad, John Hall, was given permission to use the original Henderson’s recipe for his own restaurant, which opened in 1989.
“When I was younger I was like, ‘This would be fun.’ But as I got older, my interests changed,” Mackenzie says. “I watched my dad do it, and I thought, ‘This is really hard. I don’t want to work in food or the service industry.’”
She graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in business administration and management in 2016 and got a job as an administrative assistant at the University of Texas at Dallas. She wasn’t happy with the work, and the commute from Desoto to Richardson was making her miserable.
“I ultimately reached out to my dad and told him, ‘I’m quitting my job, so you can either hire me, or I can find something else, but I am quitting this job,’” she says.
She had already been helping her dad on weekends at his Hall’s Honey Fried Chicken, which was in Duncanville at the time. It recently moved back to its longtime location on Camp Wisdom Road in Red Bird.
She learned the administrative side of the business and brought the payroll in house. The store had no online presence, and her dad had never done any marketing, relying on word-of-mouth from the beginning.
“Initially, when I said I was going to work for him, it was going to be for a year, and then I just took off with it,” she says. “I ended up liking it more than I thought I would, and I was good at it. So that was kind of cool.”
She was right. It is hard.
“I work every day of the week because in a sense, I’m always on call,” she says. “If someone calls in, I have to get dressed and go into work. It’s happened on many occasions.”
Hall’s still uses her great-grandfather’s recipe, which has no seasoning salt. By the way, the “honey” in their name refers to the color of the chicken. There’s nothing sweet in it.
Memories of her family’s original location on Thomas and Hall streets come up all the time.
“I never knew Herman Henderson. He died before I was born. I never knew his son, my uncle, who died before I was born,” she says. “But people come in here to this day and say, ‘We used to eat there, and this tastes just like it.’ I think that’s so cool. It feels so far in the past, but it really wasn’t.”