Darel Carrier and Mason Miller are separated by about six decades and a world of life experiences. But for a few hours Monday night and through the wee hours of Tuesday morning, they were united in their love of chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and the restaurant where spelling-challenged Holsteins welcome you in.
Carrier – the former Western Kentucky University and Kentucky Colonels basketball star – and Miller – a senior at Warren East High School – were among some 70 local chicken lovers who had turned out by 6 p.m. Monday for a chance to win a year’s supply of weekly meals by camping out in the parking lot of the new Chick-fil-A restaurant on Scottsville Road.
“I’m doing it for the experience and for the memories,” said Miller, who showed up for the overnight campout despite having to be at WEHS Tuesday morning. “Plus, I love me some Chick-fil-A. I eat there maybe three or four times a week.”
That’s where Miller is simpatico with Carrier, a 78-year-old who was eating the restaurant’s signature chicken sandwiches before Miller was born and before the “Eat Mor Chikin” ad campaign had been hatched. He was there for opening day of the Chick-fil-A on Campbell Lane back in 2004.
“I was the second one through the line back in 2004,” said Carrier, who knows many of the eatery’s employees by name. “I sometimes eat there twice a day. It’s run so well. I like to see perfection, and they get pretty close to it in their business.”
By being among the first 100 to show up for the campout, both Carrier and Miller earned gift cards that entitle them to one sandwich meal a week for the next 52 weeks.
“I wasn’t worried about getting the 52 meals,” Carrier said. “I just want to be out here to support them. But I won’t turn it down.”
Carrier wasn’t the only veteran of that Campbell Lane store’s opening to show up Monday night. Duane Burch, 51, was there in 2004 and took two vacation days from his job at the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant to attend Monday’s event and win some chicken meals.
“They had me at free chicken,” said Burch, who was meeting his 21-year-old son for the campout that included food, music and games.
While he welcomes the food, Burch said he likes to support Chick-fil-A because of the values founder S. Truett Cathy instilled in the company, which closes all its restaurants on Sundays.
“We respect that,” Burch said. “Not being open on Sunday shows great family values.”
The company’s politically conservative stances have drawn fire from some quarters, but they seem to resonate with folks in and around Bowling Green.
The Campbell Lane location ranks among the top 3 percent in gross sales of the chain’s 2,300 locations, and local franchise owner Andy Robinson said the new store has been anxiously awaited for the past five years.
Samuel Reckart, director of operations for the new store that is accessible from both Scottsville Road and Ken Bale Blvd., said it should take some pressure off the Campbell Lane Chick-fil-A.
“We’re projecting a little bit of a drop-off in business at the other location,” said Reckart, who said he has put in about 140 hours over the past two weeks preparing the restaurant and its 150 employees for the opening. “This one will pick up the interstate traffic.
“We’ve been working really hard, and I think we’re ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.”