Gainesville Chick-fil-A supporters turn out for 'Appreciation Day'


Traffic backs up along Archer Road during "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" outside the Gainesville location on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.

Freddy Williams, 28, of Gainesville, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Chick-fil-A on Archer Road on Wednesday — and it had nothing to do with how much he likes chicken sandwiches.

He was among the thousands upon thousands in cities nationwide who packed the restaurant famous for its chicken and for closing on Sundays — and now famous for stirring a ruckus by taking a stand against gay marriage.

Wednesday was billed as "Appreciation Day" for the chain, which has come under fire in the past few weeks because of remarks by company president Dan Cathy. In appreciation for Cathy's stand, diners inundated Chick-fil-A's on Wednesday.

"I think it's a great thing to see a lot of like-minded Christians support Chick-Fil-A," said Williams, who was among several thousand locally who packed the Archer Road location and created a traffic headache in the process.

Customers waiting to place orders in the drive-thru line snaked out of the parking lot and backed up many cars deep onto Archer Road.

Inside the Archer Road location, the restaurant was packed Wednesday evening, with a wait of about 45 minutes to order, according to people in line.

"It's kind of crazy. I've never seen it like this," said Archer Road store supervisor Ricky Delaney.

As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Archer Road store had already rung up $22,000 in sales, with about 2,000 people served, Delaney said. On a typical day, the restaurant serves about 1,600 people, so with closing time still hours away, the restaurant expected well in excess of 2,000.

"Appreciation Day" was the brainchild of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who used Facebook and social media to ask fans from across the nation to support the nation's second-largest fast-food chicken chain.

Cathy's statements in June and July in support of the biblical definition of marriage raised the ire of supporters of gay unions, who have been increasingly concerned about the company's donations to anti-gay marriage groups.

Opponents of Cathy's position are planning a show of unity of their own on Friday with a "kiss-in" at locations across the nation.

But a few protesters outside the Archer Road Chick-Fil-A got a jump on Friday and stood with signs two days early. One of them, Robbin Cochran, 29, said she had some conversations with people about the controversy.

"A lot of people have been very respectful, even if they didn't agree," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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