NORWALK, Conn. — Lyle Allen and Jes Ritchie of East Norwalk were so excited about the new Chick-Fil-A that they camped out for 24 hours before the grand opening on Thursday morning.
Their dedication — and willingness to camp in the parking lot at 467 Connecticut Ave. — paid off. Allen and Ritchie were first in line for breakfast on the Norwalk restaurant's first day. And they — along with the next 98 people in line — were also set to win a free meal per week for a year.
Allen is originally from Georgia — deep in Chick-Fil-A's original territory — and was determined to be there on the first day.
"I've heard of these opening events," he said Wednesday afternoon in an interview outside his tent. "I wasn't sure of the rules."
Ritchie said she got on the Internet and "did my homework." The two then headed to Chick-Fil-A early on Wednesday morning — in the dark and cold — to get in line for the prize.
"It was pretty freezing in the morning, I'll be honest," said Ritchie, who was decked out in sweats, a flannel shirt and a fleece. Allen was in short and a tank in the afternoon but said he was all bundled up to start.
The two brought along a tent, lots of blankets and their dog King for the 24-hour wait. How'd they pass the time?
"I've been working all day," said Ritchie, gesturing to her computer. "It's a normal day at the home office, just in the home tent instead."
Chick-Fil-A staff also led games, passed out food and conducted regular checks on the line. Music blasted as the line grew. Many in line passed the time lounging, reading and napping in the afternoon sun.
But the wait was to be over by about 6 a.m. Thursday as franchise owner Archer Bullock opened the restaurant for business. The first 100 people ate for free, and then the Chick-Fil-A officially opened.
The people in line waited 24 hours. But for Bullock, the opening is the culmination of a two-year dream.
It was two years ago this week that Bullock, who was working at the time at the Home Depot in Danbury, went with his wife to eat at the new Chick-Fil-A up the road in Brookfield.
He was so impressed by the "incredible hospitality" and the great food — "I bit into the chicken sandwich and it was just wow — that he decided to get into the Chick-Fil-A business himself.
Bullock, who was all smiles on the eve of the opening, said his goals meshed with those of Chick-Fil-A.
"It truly is a passion," said Bullock, who has hired over 100 employees. "Chick-Fil-A has a proven history of giving back, and that is something I truly believe in.
"I want to have a positive impact on our guests and our team members every day."
First-day customers are invited to participate in a children’s book drive to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford. New and gently used books can be dropped off at the new Chick-Fil-A at 467 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 19.
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