Happy campers help usher in Chick-fil-A’s Millsboro opening

MILLSBORO – Mother to be Lori Sargent was there to satisfy her craving.

Her brother Matthew Hickman was looking for some excitement.

The two Millsboro residents were among the happy campers in line to win free Chick-fil-A meals for a year in the family-friendly 24-hour overnight “First 100” celebration. A Chick-fil-A grand opening tradition with eligibility based on specific zip-codes surrounding the restaurant, the First 100 is one of the activities and festivities planned in conjunction with the April 5 opening of the new restaurant on Commerce Drive.

“I’m expecting, and I crave Chick-fil-A. So that is an added bonus for me,” said Ms. Sargent. “She is due in June. I’ll be all set.”

“It’s just something do, to break the boredom,” said Mr. Hickman.

Early Wednesday morning, tents and other makeshift sleeping quarters began popping up in the parking of the new restaurant, some 24 hours before the official opening.

Some tents didn’t fare too well in windy and occasionally gusty conditions Wednesday afternoon.

First 100 participants Sheldon Hudson and 15-year-old son Zachary experienced major logistical problems.

“My son just informed me that three of the poles on our tent have broken and in half. So, I’m not sure how are going to resolve that,” said Mr. Hudson, town manager for the town of Millsboro. “A lot of wind today, and we had a heavy shower, almost squally for about 10 or 15 minutes. And I think the ongoing wear and tear took its toll.”

First 100 celebration rules restrict participants from leaving the restaurant grounds so an S.O.S. call went out to Mr. Hudson’s wife. But, alas, no tents could be found at nearby stores.

So, their alternate plan was to “rough it” and sleep under the stars, if necessary, Mr. Hudson said.

A 9 a.m. ribbon cutting Thursday will follow a special 6 a.m. opening for the First 100 campers and a 6:30 a.m. opening for the general public.

The event reached 100 campers at about 4:15 a.m. this morning. Each camper walked away with the coveted prize of free Chick-fil-A for a year.

There was a line of about 30 people and about 10 cars in the drive-thru when the store opened at 6:30 a.m.

For photos and videos of the First 100 awarding and grand opening click here.

The Millsboro restaurant is the first Chick-fil-A in inland Sussex County.

“I’m really excited to be in Millsboro. I think Millsboro has been waiting for this for a long time. This is the culmination in that excitement as well,” said Millsboro Chick-fil-A franchise owner Tim Sweetman. “You see when people are willing to come out here in 35-degree weather, windy and torrential downpours, I don’t think they are here just for free Chick-fil-A, they are here because of who we are as a brand of caring for our community, and really caring for our people.”

“We are about fresh food. We’re about great service, and those things kind of shine through when you see people camping out. This is not your normal restaurant,” said Mr. Sweetman, whose family currently resides in Ocean View.

“I am a personal fan of Chick-fil-A, absolutely,” said Mr. Hudson. “And then on a professional level, I think it’s a great way for me to show support to a local business. Tim Sweetman, the owner/operator of this Chick-fil-A seems like a tremendous guy. I think he’s going to do a great job. I think he’ll bring a lot in terms of leadership development to not only young people in Millsboro but the surrounding area. So, it’s a great addition to the town for sure.”

“Chick-fil-A coming to Millsboro has real significance but also symbolic significance,” Mr. Hudson added. “I really think it is the continuation of the wave that we have talked about. I think you are going to see more high-quality retail, high-quality employers come to the town – in a sense ride on Chick-fil-A’s coattails.”

In conjunction with the grand opening, Chick-fil-A is seeking gently used books, shoes and clothing from the community for donation to several area elementary schools – East Millsboro, Long Neck and John M. Clayton – as well as the Boys & Girls Club.

“We’re about our community as well,” said Mr. Sweetman. “We don’t want people to just come out and party and celebrate. We want to be able to give back.”

Thus far, about 90 full-time and part-time positions have been filled. The “help wanted” sign is still out.

“We are closing in on our goal of 100 new jobs,” said Mr. Sweetman.

“One of things I get excited about is every single team member has a reason that they are working at this restaurant,” Mr. Sweetman said. “You’ll see team members’ name tags, and underneath their name they’ll have the reason that they are working here. I’ve got people who have name tags that say: 100-percent debt free; neurosurgeons; crime scene investigators; everything you could possibly imagine. One of the coolest ones simply says: homeowner. They haven’t gotten to that place yet but every single day they put that name tag on they come here for a reason. We want this to be a second home for our team and our guests.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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