Another wing has been added to the “Chicken Strip,” the playful nickname for the succession of chicken restaurants down Keller Parkway between Rufe Snow Drive and Main Street, with the opening Thursday morning of Chick-fil-A in Town Center.
One hundred “Eat Mor Chikin” lovers started gathering outside the restaurant starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday for the chance to win free food once a week for a year. The opening also was in partnership with the Community Storehouse, which benefited from donations of canned goods for its pantry.
The grand opening giveaway is a tradition that Chick-fil-A started about 10 years ago, spokeswoman Amy Capehart said. The restaurant chain allows camping out starting 24 hours in advance.
“It started as a great way to get the community excited about Chick-fil-A and put a fun event together just for them,” she said.
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Capehart said that the restaurant chain hosts about 95 openings per year and that the owner of the new location recently moved from California to operate the restaurant and be with her family. The chain is celebrating its 50th year.
“We’ve heard a lot about the amazing community of Keller and have had a great response so far,” Capehart said.
Among the people waiting in line were first-time campers and seasoned veterans, including Denison resident Clarke Schoeck who is celebrating his 36th Chick-fil-A campout.
“The camraderie brings me back,” he said. “I’ve made all of these in about five years and have been through all kinds of interesting weather.”
Schoeck, who recently moved to Denison from Arlington, said he has experienced campouts in 16-degree weather, rain and severe thunderstorms. He said he likes to visit Keller restaurants and enjoys the city’s atmosphere.
Fellow campers Tom Knapp and Paula Joy Kindred said waking up early was difficult but a worthwhile part of the experience.
“The end is my favorite,” Knapp, a Bedford resident, said. “You gotta get up at 6 a.m. and they give you shirts and hats and make a lot of noise, and you walk through the line and get your card and you’re set.”
Kindred, a Plano resident on her 15th campout, usually brings her sister, daughter and mother, but said her daughter couldn’t make the campout but drove her to the restaurant at 4 a.m.
“That should show you how dedicated we are to this,” she said. “It’s really about the fellowship is what my daughter told me. Fun, food and friends all combine into overall fellowship.”
A disc jockey entertained guests throughout the night, which included dancing and games led by Chick-fil-A staff. In the meantime, Keller’s Community Storehouse set up shop on the curb collecting canned food in partnership with the restaurant.
Community Storehouse marketing representative Jill Lebaron said the two groups partnered together earlier in the month to help raise awareness for the pantry’s needs and collect donations. The organization collected 398 cans at the drive, Lebaron said.
“We’ve worked closely with Chick-fil-A’s Southlake and Alliance area locations and this is a great opportunity to let the community know they can always bring donations to us to help make a difference,” she said.
Community Storehouse feeds 160 families each month in Keller and Northwest school districts, which serves more than 2,000 qualified kids, Lebaron said. She said books and hygiene products are also among the organization’s needs, as well as raising awareness for their education programs.
“We want to meet [the kids’] needs and continue to spread the message for them,” she said.
Food pantry coordinator Louise Jackson said Chick-fil-A would give a special prize to the person in line who donates the most cans under his or her name. Family and friends could also give donations in support of their loved one in line.
Chick-fil-A is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 1002 Keller Parkway.