Chick-fil-A lovers line up

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chick-Fil-A lovers: Approximately 150 people, including Christine and Michael Egnor, Tracy Hudson and Kira Pavlock, were lined up at the new College Drive Chick-fil-A on Wednesday morning by 6 a.m. Administrators held a raffle to select ‘the first 100,’ who camped out at the site on Wednesday night to be the first 100 customers on Thursday morning.

By 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, more than 100 people were waiting in line at the Chick-fil-A on College Drive.

The 100 that were chosen as the “first 100” didn’t leave their posts until 6 a.m. Thursday morning, despite cold temperatures.

People from the community, throughout Hampton Roads and beyond gathered to get their spot in line as one of the first 100 customers at the College Drive Chick-fil-A’s grand opening on Thursday to receive free Chick-fil-A for a year.

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“I took the day off work, and we were here at 5:45 a.m.,” said Brian Lee Newbern Sr., whose wife and two children joined him. “It’s my first time coming to a ‘first 100’ event, and there were more people than I expected. I was shocked. They have a big fan club. There are people from North Carolina to Maryland here.”

The scene is typical for Chick-fil-A restaurant openings.

The store officially opened for business at 6 a.m. on Thursday, after an evening of fun and games to celebrate its new home in the community.

“Our real purpose is to be a light in the community,” said Dan Curran, operator. “We want to be friendly faces in the community and be a place where everyone knows they’ll be accepted.”

Curran hails from Ohio, where he operated a Chick-fil-A for three years.

To celebrate the opening of the restaurant — and make sure no one took their place in line — people pitched tents around the perimeter of the store and participated in games and activities throughout the evening.

On Thursday morning, they each received 52 free vouchers for Chick-fil-A.

“We support Chick-fil-A and are excited to have them in the community,” Newbern said. “They’re a great organization from top to bottom. I’m impressed with their values, their faith and their integrity. They’ve fed us well today, too. It’s just been a great experience, and we’re glad to show our support for everything they do in the community and everything they stand for.”

The new stand-alone Chick-fil-A in Suffolk is one of 78 new locations the chain plans to open this year. Despite the nation’s economic challenges in 2009, Chick-fil-A continued to expand, increasing the number of locations beyond initial projections for the year, according to a Chick-fil-A press release.

The College Drive location has hired 73 people from among 1,500-plus applications.

But, Curran — who left a successful career in lumber to join Chick-fil-A — hopes to offer employees more than a paycheck.

“After a while, you begin to look around and wonder how you’re making a difference,” Curran said. “Here, I want the chance to motivate people to succeed in life. For many of the people who come to work here, it’s one of their first jobs. I want to help them realize their goals and build a foundation of what will make them a good employee. Honor, dignity and respect — that’s what we’re about here.”

For its customers, the new Chick-fil-A on College Drive features an interior that seats 138 people and has warm colors and wood accents and a convenient drive-through. Children can enjoy an indoor play area featuring an interactive section for toddlers.

The new restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., serving a full breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m.