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Restaurant's opening made into a happening
Campers chill and take part in activities Wednesday evening as they wait for the Thursday morning opening of Hinesvilles first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Oglethorpe Square. - photo by Photo by Lawrence Dorsey

The sun wasn’t up yet, but folks waiting for the opening of Hinesville’s first Chick-fil-A were already lined up Thursday. Many spent the night camping in the parking lot, vying to be the first customers in.

Chick-fil-A owner Nick Westbrook honored the overnighters by awarding T-shirts and gift cards redeemable for a year’s worth of meals to the first 100 customers.

Emily Guerard and Charlie Harvey said they arrived early Wednesday to be among the first.

"We have been out here since 5:30 or 6 a.m.," Guerard said. "There were only 20 people out here."

Theodore Brunson said he first laughed off the idea of camping for a free meal. But the more he and his wife thought about it, the more they decided to come.

"It’s fun and we’re not doing anything right now … so we decided to come out and support our local restaurants," Brunson said. "We are just out here having a good time."

"It was very successful," Westbrook said. "We had over 100 people. We couldn’t be more excited. Everybody came out and supported us..."

Westbrook said his restaurant is committed to the community. He said they interviewed nearly 450 people of the 900 who applied for jobs. He hired 97. Wednesday, those employees helped pack 10,000 meals to distribute throughout the community. They also donated 400 books to Frank Long Elementary.

Brunson said the campers got a chance to help the employees pack the food donations.

Miriam Hudson of Hinesville said she came to support the restaurant since it supports the community.

"We just finished boxing 10,080 meals that they are going to be sending to disadvantaged hungry children. It’s an event. It is fun," she said.

Hudson said the campers also helped the employees test the kitchen. She said campers walked up to the drive-through window to order meals, giving the workers experience preparing for a lunch rush. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for the campers were provided by Chick-fil-A.

She said Chick-fil-A also provided activities throughout the stay. Thursday morning, by 6, the tents came down and the doors opened. Within minutes, cars lined the drive-through and customers were ordering.

Westbrook said the community has been welcoming and he plans to do, "everything we can to make sure they love their local Chick-fil-A."

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