Two Ellis County Chick-fil-A stores celebrated pre-grand openings with a community campout and day trip Wednesday.
At the Red Oak and Midlothian locations, a total of 152 community members were awarded a year’s worth of free chicken sandwiches for their efforts to set up camp in anticipation of the doors opening for the first time. Along with a year supply, guests in Midlothian were treated to a day trip and conducted a service project, while folks a few miles over in Red Oak camped out and stayed busy with a variety of activities.
Tacovia Ingram, a nurse who lives in Red Oak, knew Chick-fil-A went all-out with grand openings and emailed the company weeks in advance to prepare. She even had her friend, Shandra Jones, a teacher in Ferris, email the company as well.
The women arrived promptly at the new Red Oak Chick-fil-A at 5:30 a.m. to guarantee the best camping spot. The Chick-fil-A marketing team kept the crowd busy all day with various games and activities. Jones said they had a heads or tails competition, rock-paper-scissors matches, foursquare, Oreo eating contests and more.
The two friends sat in their lawn chairs with an umbrella enjoying the 80-degree weather and watched as adults and kids scurried around the parking lot.
“I feel like it’s a good experience to do least one time in your life. This is something different,” Ingram elaborated. “I’ve never done it, she’s never done it, and we’ve met so many different people. I’ve been Instagramming and snap chatting, and everyone’s jealous.”
“We love it.” Ingram and Jones said at the same time.
“It’s fun. We came prepared, and the weather is great,” Jones affirmed.
They came equipped with a tent, two generators, an air mattress, an umbrella, lawn chairs, snacks, reading material, and even a heater.
“I think it’s really good for community involvement and getting to meet new people who live just a few miles away from you that you may have never met before. Now we can come together because we love Chick-fil-A,” Ingram expressed.
At 7:30 p.m. the Red Oak location hit 100 campers. Those who stayed through the night were awarded the year's supply of chicken sandwiches (no, not all at once) at 6:30 a.m.
A short drive over to Midlothian was Jeff Garner, director of the student ministry at Stonegate Church, and seven of this friends. The eight were the first in line and arrived at the Midlothian location at 4:30 a.m.
As folks lined up outside, 52 patrons were transported in charter buses to conduct a service project and have a little fun at TexPlex. They also created a mosaic for the Midlothian Chick-fil-A to hang inside.
“Everyone was high energy, excitement,” Garner relayed. “It’s really exciting to have this in the community, especially Chick-fil-A. You have a great company that does a lot with the community. This was totally fun to be apart of.”
He added, “Chick-fil-A is God chosen food, for God’s chosen people. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
During the service project, community members restocked shelves with food at the Manna House and packed 200 bags for school children to have food to take home for the weekend as part of “Feed the Kids” program. They also spent time cleaning up a local park.
The 52 road trippers then travel off the beaten path to TexPlex complex and took part in outdoor excursions. When they arrived back at the store, the bunch was led by a trumpet player and the Chick-fil-A cow in a "parade" through the restaurant and was awarded their year's worth of chicken sandwiches.
MEET THE OPERATORS
Red Oak owner, Jeremy Trojacek, he said his team members and guests are the top priority. He’s creating a “Disney Land atmosphere,” where guests are taken care of starting at the door.
“I talk to my team members about being people oriented. I put my staff before my business," Trojacek relayed." I feel if I surround myself with quality people then the business part will take care of itself."
He is also quite familiar with the company, as his wife’s mother operated a storefront, too. He was the director of community relations for Chick-fil-A for three months and grew accustomed to the culture.
Trojacek moved to Midlothian just three years ago from the Round Rock area and before that he resided in Southlake. He has been an educator and coached his entire adult life up to this point.
“I never thought I’d get out of coaching, ever,” Trojacek admitted. “We thought about it, prayed about it, cried about it. It’s been the toughest decision ever.”
“We are beyond excited, honored, humbled, blessed I can’t think of enough adjectives to describe it. We can’t wait to impact individuals, impact families,” he emphasized.
Midlothian operator, John Millender, has lived in Midlothian for a short two months.
“I lived in the DFW area for about eight years. We drove here to Midlothian, saw the location and just fell in love with it,” Millender expressed.
He started his first job at Chick-fil-A at the age of 16 and had invested the majority of his life with the company. He opened a store in Georgia that he ran for five years. But, he gives all the credit to the Athens operator, which he shadowed for eight years.
What sets his location aside is the nearly 5,000 square foot building and drive-thru. Millender said the Midlothian store is one of the largest he’s seen. He pointed out how older Chick-fil-A stores have a drive-thru located directly in front of the entrance.
The Midlothian location has plenty of parking and a drive-thru that’s rooted the rear of the building.
“For me, that’s a lot safer,” Millender stressed.
Millender is thankful that the city allowed a Chick-fil-A to open and is looking forward to meeting everyone in the community.
"I’m very thankful for my wife, Jocelyn. Without her, we wouldn’t be able to do this," Millender said. "This journey has been a huge blessing. It’s a lot of work but at the same time, we’ve been able to meet a lot of people, and we are looking forward to building relationships in the community.”
Both locations officially opened Thursday, April 12. According to a Chick-fil-A press release, both stores are collecting new and gently used books during the grand opening week to benefit local elementary and middle schools in Red Oak and United Way of West Ellis County.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450