12/01/05 — Chick-fil-A opens a stand-alone restaurant here

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Chick-fil-A opens a stand-alone restaurant here

By Turner Walston
Published in News on December 1, 2005 1:47 PM

The new free-standing Chick-fil-A restaurant on North Berkeley Boulevard opened for business today with more than a hundred people waiting for promotional coupons that guaranteed free meals for a year.

Owner-operator Russell Wade said the crowd that began assembling outside the restaurant yesterday enjoyed themselves, with music, dancing, games and food provided by Chick-fil-A. Some people came from as far away as Raleigh and Burlington to join the party, he said. Motorists passing by often beeped their horns in recognition.

"They had a blast last night," Wade said.

When the doors opened at 6 a.m., cowbells clanged as the campers queued up. Wade, who has worked with Chick-fil-A in Goldsboro since 1997, said he was pleased by the turnout.

"I just feel overwhelmed," Wade said. "It tells me that Chick-fil-A has raving fans that love Chick-fil-A and are willing to sacrifice sleep and energy and everything else to eat Chick-fil-A."

Chick-fil-A is the nation's second largest fast-food chicken restaurant chain. The Berkeley restaurant gives the company 1,236 locations, including one at Berkeley Mall that has been in business since 1986. Chick-fil-A operates restaurants in 38 states and the District of Columbia. The first Chick-fil-A opened in 1967 at a mall in Atlanta.

The new building is part of Chick-fil-A's move to create more free-standing restaurants. Company officials say they will open 77 new locations this year, 60 of which will be free-standing. The Berkeley Boulevard restaurant will seat 140 people inside, with patio seating for 14, Wade said.

Wade started working for Chick-fil-A as a teenager. He has worked at restaurants in Milwaukee and Atlanta before becoming the operator of the Berkeley mall location at 24.

Robert Winders, 25, of Pikeville, arrived before 11 p.m. Wednesday night to find a place in line. He spent the night in a tent and sleeping bag.

"It was cold. Real cold," Winders said. "It was loud out there. There were a lot of people going by blasting their horns."

Winders said he camped out for the experience as much as for the free coupons for a year.

"Just the feeling. It was a rush," he said. Winders said he would give some coupons to friends and family.