Triangle Chick-fil-A backers say: eat chicken, not words

kjahner@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2012 

A line of cars backs up from the Chi into the Chick-Fil-A at the corner of U.S. 70 and Timber Dr. in Garner during lunchtime on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. The counter-protest was suggested by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in response to calls for a boycott of the chain over anti-gay marriage comments of COO Dan Cathy on July 18.

KYLE JAHNER — kjahner@newsobserver.com

Diners flooded Chick-fil-A restaurants around the Triangle Wednesday as part of a national show of support after the company’s president came under fire for saying he opposed same-sex marriage.

At the Garner Chick-fil-A, a line of patrons stretched along the side of the restaurant and extended into the street leading into the parking lot, with 10 to 15 cars consistently waiting to get to the drive-through windows.

In Knightdale, church buses pulled up to a Chick-fil-A where restaurant operator Kevin Anderson said, “Today’s business has at least doubled, if not tripled what we do on an average day.”

Three police officers directed traffic into the restaurant, where 10 extra employees were called in to help.

Chick-fil-A restaurants elsewhere in the Triangle also saw a surge in patrons who came out to eat the restaurants’ trademark chicken sandwiches and waffle fries because they oppose efforts to pressure the company.

“I came because I support traditional marriage and think the CEO of Chick-fil-A should be able to say whatever he wants without people making a big deal out of it ... or trying to shove their values down everyone’s throat,” said Steve Mayberry, of Raleigh, who visited the restaurant in Knightdale.

The chain’s Smithfield location was packed throughout the day. The overflowing drive-through line backed up traffic on North Bright Leaf Boulevard for blocks. Some had to park across the street at Walmart to join the dine-in line that stretched out the restaurant’s door.

Linda V. Eldridge of Four Oaks said she wanted to voice her support for Cathy’s comments. “I also believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” she said.

In Apex, customer after customer came through the front doors of the Chick-fil-A in Beaver Creek Commons dropping words of encouragement and support for franchise owner Tony Holmes.

Holmes said business was up 30 percent as of about 5 p.m., and people were lined up out the doors and around the block during the lunch rush.

Randy Dye drove to Apex from his home in Pittsboro to show his support for Chick-fil-A. He proudly bore in his opinions via a sign: “Supporting: Christian Values; American business; First Amendment (Chik-Fil-A [sic]).”

The chain, with each restaurant independently operated, has always operated on Bible-based principles according to a corporate news release. Restaurants close on Sundays, operate debt-free and donate a percentage of profits back into the community.

In Garner, most patrons interviewed agreed with Cathy on marriage, but they also supported the right of people not to be punished for expressing their beliefs.

“They’re trying to silence him,” said Ronald Mills, a roofer from Garner.

Mike Darlington criticized the outrage with Cathy.

“That’s the great thing about our country, we have the First Amendment,” Darlington said.

Darlington also pointed that across the parking lot was a Home Depot, which denotes money to gay pride events. Does he shop at Home Depot? “No” was his one-word answer. His view was that people have the right to boycott, but “just don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Using social media, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for the “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response to those who called for boycotts of the chain.

Gay rights advocates said Cathy’s comments reflect the company’s broader support for efforts to block same-sex marriage and gay rights in general through its philanthropic wing, the WinShape Foundation.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – known as GLAAD — has called for demonstrations at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide on Friday. GLAAD is backing a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” outside of the restaurants.

Staff writers Paul A. Specht, Colin Campbell, Aliana Ramos and Dean-Paul Stephens contributed to this report.

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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