Supporters crowd Blount Chick-fil-A locations on Appreciation Day
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Chick-fil-A locations on Hunters Crossing Drive in Alcoa and inside Foothills Mall in Maryville are normally crowded during lunchtime.
But never like this.
The two Blount County locations experienced heavy volumes Wednesday as many hungry supporters came as part of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day nationwide, in support of restaurant President and CEO Dan Cathy’s views on supporting traditional marriage.
At the Hunters Crossing location, vehicles in the drive-thru line stretched more than halfway down Hunters Crossing Drive, causing heavy traffic volume on the road, and the line to get in the restaurant wrapped all the way around the building. The Foothills Mall location was reported to have had very long lines and heavy traffic flow as well.
“They did call to have an officer come down and assist,” said Holly Hatcher, community policing officer for the Alcoa Police Department, referring to the long line of vehicles in the drive-thru. “The response was they didn’t have the manpower to have officers go to that location. It worked itself out, and there didn’t appear to be any major issues, except some backup.”
Cathy and Chick-fil-A have been under national scrutiny for the past several weeks for his comments in a recent interview with The Baptist Press, where he stated, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that ... we know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Cathy’s father, Truett, built Chick fil-A into a $4 billion a year enterprise with more than 1,600 stores. He is still active in the company at the age of 91, but his son runs the day-to-day operations as CEO.
Chick fil-A is closed on Sundays so that their employees can go to church. Despite the pressure and scrutiny from the business world to change that approach, the company has not caved in.
‘We’re behind him’
Liz Stewart, of Greenback, and her family were small fish in a big pond at the Hunters Crossing location, as they got through the long line and sat down to have lunch.
“I think that it takes a lot for a company of this magnitude to take a stand in today’s society,” Stewart said. “We wanted to come and show that we agree with everything (Cathy) stands for, and we’re behind him. I hope all these people here today will vote and voice their opinion and make it known.”
“How they stand behind this and all these people here today should tell you something,” added Dianne Stewart, her mother-in-law.
Eddie Stewart, Liz Stewart’s father-in-law, was waiting for his order after braving the ever-growing crowd, and did not keep his opinions to himself.
“I’m here to support the old boy,” Eddie Stewart said. “He’s got a lot of gumption and a lot of guts, and I think we need more people like him. I don’t care — whatever you say, whatever you believe you believe. You’ve got your beliefs, I’ve got my beliefs, too. We all have a right to live and do what we have to do.
“It is somewhat of an abomination in my mind what’s going on and what we’re doing as a country right now,” Eddie Stewart continued. “We are going in the wrong direction all the way around. We’re supporting things we shouldn’t be supporting. We’re allowing things that shouldn’t happen. That’s all there is to it. This old boy took a stand. You need to do it, your people (media) need to do it, I needed to do it. If you don’t, we’re not going to have much left before too long.”
Jena Hamby, of Louisville, was at the same location eating lunch with her friend, Christy Gaddis, of Maryville.
“I’m here for support and for lunch because I come here often,” Hamby said. “I think someone was asked a question and they gave their opinion about their beliefs, and someone misrepresented that. I’m here to support a business that just answered a question about their beliefs. I never doubted they would be in trouble.”
“We believe that Chick-fil-A stands up for what is right, and we believe in their conservatism and all around their beliefs, and we want to be able to support them,” Gaddis added.
Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing for Chick-fil-A Inc., said in a statement, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not created by Chick-fil-A. We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. Our goal is simple: to provide great food, genuine hospitality and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.
“Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates,” Robinson continued. “From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”