The amount of cars seen on State of Franklin Road heading toward Peoples Street, as well as cars wrapped around the Walgreens on State of Franklin and West Market Street Wednesday, would easily resemble a Black Friday mob, heading out to scour the sales racks.
People were not out looking for the latest deals, though, but rather they were out to buy chicken at Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
It all started after former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee encouraged his viewers to ‘Eat More Chicken’ while speaking on his FOX News TV show and Johnson Citians turned out in numbers to support the recently controversial food chain. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy sparked outrage within the LGBT community, as well as those who support same-sex marriage.
As crowds outside the local Chick-fil-A franchises, as well as the restaurant located in The Mall at Johnson City, waited nearly 45 minutes just to place their order, it was evident that Cathy’s opinions resonated with many people in the Johnson City community.
Corey Weber, of Kingsport, said he came to the event to show support for a man that he said shared his similar beliefs.
“I’m out here to show support for this fine establishment that has the same Christian beliefs and views that I do,” Weber said. “He actually stated his honest opinion and that’s why I’m here. Anybody should be able to say whatever they want to say and even though it’s not ... politically correct, ... you shouldn’t be shot down or persecuted for it.”
He said the crowd at the Market Street location had been very positive and that they were happy to wait in the lines to show their support.
“This is just one easy way we can all come out here and show support. We’re standing up to make a point,” Weber said.
Weber said the support shown was not against those that are gay, but rather to stand up for their own beliefs.
“As a Christian, I believe one thing. I’m not going to try to push it on another person and get mad at them if they don’t agree with me,” he said. “They scream about how tolerant we should be of their beliefs and views, but when we oppose them, they’re not very tolerant.”
Jean Soergel, of Jonesborough, was sipping on a cup of water given to those waiting in line outside and was adamant in her support for the company.
“I am here to support Chick-fil-A for having the guts to take a stand when everybody else just turns their cheeks and ignores what is going on,” she said.
Soergel said while many times people who feel strongly about these particular issues rarely speak up, she felt the crowds demonstrated a unified voice that reflected the beliefs of Chick-fil-A’s CEO.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It shows that yes, we are out there. We maybe don’t make our voices heard like we should, but we’re out here and there are a lot of us.”
For Market Street’s chain owner and operator Darrell Fowler, business, while highly unusual opposed to typical mid-week numbers, was business and his goal was not to politicize, but rather to simply feed people.
“If the customers are trying to make a statement, I respect that,” he said. “My job is to be open six days a week and to serve everyone. We love all (of) our customers, anybody that comes in. It doesn’t matter what their beliefs are, we want to just provide that refuge for a few minutes. I don’t really have an opinion about all of the national political stuff, because we want to be open, available and fair to everyone.”
Fowler said he would celebrate someone peacefully protesting, as well as someone advocating for their Christian beliefs, but at the end of the day his job is to take care of his restaurant to the best of his ability.
“We’re in the food business. We are not a church. We are not a government agency,” he said. “I go to church, I pay my taxes, but as a business person, my job is to feed people.”