Selma Store Puts a New Spin on Chicken
By Caleb Hicks
When it comes to specialty foods, Mark’s Mart in Selma tops the pecking order, especially for its distinct Chicken Swirl™.
Focusing on fresh food and a mindset for impeccable service, Mark’s Mart owner Rodney King invented the renowned poultry palate pleaser. He said he never would have guessed he’d sell what he calculates are millions of swirls.
“It’s pretty neat to see this dish as a staple in so many homes of our customers,” the Selma native said. “I tried to figure out a new entrée that would be easy to cook and do well on the grill. The Chicken Swirl™ was popular right away.”
Chicken breast meat stuffed with smoked beef and wrapped in bacon with a secret blend of spices make up the delectable dish.
Such an idea was sparked after King’s nearly 12-year stint in the meat-packing industry came to an end in 1992 amid what he calls a “Renaissance period” for folks wanting to spend more time in their backyards.
“Thirty years ago, there just wasn’t the amount of good, local restaurants we have in our area now,” King said. “I wanted to develop a restaurant-quality meal that anyone could cook at home 30 minutes or less while enjoying their yards.”
Sourcing its poultry meat from Alabama companies including Koch Foods, Mar-Jac Poultry and Pilgrim’s, Mark’s Mart goes through an average 1,000 pounds a week between its Selma store and its Northport branch.
Not only was The Chicken Swirl™ immediately popular, it continues to hold a spot in many freezers around Alabama.
“During the beginning of the pandemic, we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Rodney said. “Folks were buying 20, sometimes 30 at a time to put in their freezers. We hadn’t planned on that happening. We’re restocked now.”
The Chicken Swirl™ isn’t the only item King dreamed up upon his return to carry on the family legacy. He developed and sells several flavor-fresh items including appetizers, salads, fresh meats, twice-baked potatoes, stuffed mushrooms and peppers and more.
Mark’s Mart, named for King’s brother, opened in Selma in 1978. It relocated just outside the city the following year. In 2019, a second Mark’s Mart opened in Northport with King’s son, Jacob, as manager.
“The Chicken Swirl™ has been the product that has carried our brand,” Jacob said. “Anytime you can turn a boneless, skinless chicken breast into something interesting and new, it can be exciting. I think that’s just what Dad was able to.”
Jacob doesn’t take the opportunity to grow The Chicken Swirl™ legacy lightly.
“Being the third generation in this business and carrying on the family tradition is everything to me,” he said. “Not a lot of businesses make it that long. We get to share our family recipes with so many people across Alabama and other places. It really is special.”
For Rodney, producing fresh foods made with the finest ingredients is a top priority. That’s something he aims to never change.
“Providing a quality product is something I always intended to do,” he said. “If someone comes to one of our stores, they know we have the best quality products we possibly can. I think that is the main reason we’re still in business.”
The word Chicken Swirl™ and the appearance of the Chicken Swirl™ product are both trademarked by Mark’s Mart, LLC.