Yes, today was a big day for Sanford…..a major milestone in the evolution of our town……a long awaited arrival finally came to fruition! At 6:30 this morning, the newest Chick-fil-A location opened and at 9:00 the ribbon was cut with more anticipation, hoopla, and ceremony than a visit from a sitting President would get! OK, so maybe I exaggerate just a little – but not by much!
Of course, I had to head up that way after work to get an opening day meal. I’ve been to lots of Chick-fil-A restaurants, but never on an opening day. To be honest, I was really quite impressed!
To tell the story adequately, I need to back up a bit. For as long as I can remember, a free-standing Chick-fil-A has been on every wish list I’ve ever seen for Sanford. When it was announced that a deal was set to open one on an out-parcel lot at the WalMart shopping center, the excitement began to build. It was all people could talk about. As the highly anticipated opening day grew closer, the excitement turned into a frenzy of eager fans hungry for a chance to eat one of those amazing chicken sandwiches without having to go out-of-town or to the hospital. (Side note for those who wonder why I mention the hospital: Sanford does have a limited menu Chick-fil-A location in the hospital cafeteria). Then, yesterday, the first 100 customer challenge began. You see, whenever a Chick-fil-A opens a new location, they offer a free meal (sandwich, fries, and a drink) every week for a year to the first 100 customers who meet certain criteria. They have to arrive at the restaurant at 6:00 am the day BEFORE the opening and stay there for at least 24 hours – camping out in the parking lot – to be eligible. If more than 100 customers meet the criteria, the 100 winners are selected via a lottery drawing. Crazy, right? Well, the Sanford opening had well over 200 people show up for the challenge! Tents were erected, lawn chairs were set up, games were played to pass the time, and the 200+ people – mostly strangers – shared a fun-filled 24 hours together! (BTW – I was NOT one of them!)
Today was the grand opening and the ribbon cutting ceremony. From the pics I saw from the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like all the local elected officials and many happy citizens were on hand to welcome the new business to Sanford. It sure looked like everyone was having a grand time – lots of fun and enthusiasm on everyone’s faces!
Since it was a work day, I had to wait until after I got off to go check it out. I figured it would likely be crowded, so I decided to just go through the drive thru and take my opening day meal home with me. Traffic heading in the direction of the WalMart area was thick and slow. I wondered how many were actually going that way for the same reason I was – to eat a piece of history in the making. I pulled into the parking lot – barely – and got into the very long line for the drive thru. But, here is where I became impressed! The line was outrageously long – I assumed I would be there until midnight! But, it moved surprisingly fast! And then there were the “greeters” – men in dress shirts and ties that I could only assume were high in the managerial ranks of the Chick-fil-A organization were standing along the drive thru line.
The first I came up on was welcoming every car and handing out a photo sheet of the menu board so that we could decide what we wanted to order before we got to the speaker to place our orders. He was very cheery and friendly – commenting on how I should have my top down on such a beautiful day! Then, right at the bend where the line split into two lines for two order boards was the famous Chick-fil-A mascot – a cow wearing a jersey with words begging people to “Eat Mor Chikin” – waving at everyone. Thankfully, his costume hid his face, cause I’m sure it was beet red and not very happy to be wearing a fur outfit in the almost, if not right at, 100 degree day we were having! (don’t let the sky in the photos I took fool you – it was HOT and it was SUNNY and the breeze that was blowing in the threat of a possible rain storm was NOT at all cooling)
When I got to the speakers and placed my order, I was greeted by a cheerful voice that said “Welcome to Chick-fil-A, how may I help you?” and then after I told him what I wanted, he said “We’ll be happy to serve you at the pick up window. Enjoy your meal and have a great day.” As I pulled ahead, there was another important looking man with a tie directing the two lanes back into one lane to proceed to the pick up window. He, too, was very cheery and welcomed me and wished me well. Then, there was an employee in a Chick-fil-A uniform and another important looking guy in a tie running up and down the line waiting for the pick up window taking money and bringing bags of food so that no one had to wait at the window - smiling and joking with customers as they went about their job of keeping the flow of cars moving along smoothly. It really was quite impressive - from the time I got in that incredibly long line until I pulled out of the parking lot with my food, I’ll bet no more than 10-15 minutes had passed!!! I’ve waited longer than that at McDonald’s with only 1 or 2 cars ahead of me! And to top it all off……..my order was CORRECT and HOT – VERY HOT! And I left with a smile on my face and a commitment to return again!
And those important looking guys in ties? Well, they had to have been there doing their greeter thing and more all day long cause they were the same guys in the photos posted by the Chamber of Commerce giving speeches at the ribbon cutting ceremony. They sure didn’t look it, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy to stand out there in this heat with a long sleeve dress shirt and a tie all day! Way to show enthusiasm for becoming a part of our community, guys! I sure appreciated it and I bet a lot of other people did, too.
So, why are Chick-fil-A sandwiches such a hit? Afterall, it is just a chicken sandwich, right? WRONG!!!
I don’t know what makes them so different – a breaded chicken breast on a bun with a couple dill pickles – but they are! The flavor is amazing! And they are so juicy and tender – NEVER dry like chicken breast can be sometimes. I am not a fan of white meat chicken, but I LOVE me some Chick-fil-A!!!! It doesn’t matter what makes them special – they just are! So, help out the cows that really need you to “Eat Mor Chikin” and less burgers and go check out the newest Chick-fil-A location in Sanford! Enjoy!