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Nearly 100 fans of Chick-fil-A lined up at the entrance of the new Southaven location at 6885 Getwell Road early Wednesday morning to take part in the franchise’s First 100 Road Trip promotion. For appearing and taking part in community service projects Wednesday, the group received a year’s supply of meals from operator Brandon Paulsen.  

It’s not often the opening of a new business comes with as much “splash” as is happening today. It’s also not very often where that business opening happens with such an outpouring of community service at the same time.

But, DeSoto County apparently loves eating chicken and folks will do about anything if they can get it for free.

That’s what nearly 100 aficionados of Chick-fil-A did Wednesday ahead Thursday’s grand opening of the franchise’s latest restaurant at 6885 Getwell Road in Southaven. They took part in Chick-fil-A’s First 100 Grand Opening Road Trip to locations such as the Hermitage Gardens senior living center, Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center and Olive Branch City Park.

The First 100 Road Trip has been a 15-year tradition with Chick-fil-A.

“We’re stopping in at different locations and we stopped at Walmart to get some supplies to make Easter baskets,” said operator Brandon Paulsen. “We’ve gone to an assisted living home and spent some time with them doing some cleaning. Later on we’re giving out the Easter baskets to one of the facilities here in DeSoto County.”

It is that activity in the community that Paulsen said his franchise is trying to inspire with a reward at the end.

“Basically, it’s putting people to action and serving in the community and helping them learn about the good things in the community they can give back to,” Paulsen said. “We’re trying to mobilize and motivate these folks.”

The motivation for the First 100 was that by taking part in Wednesday’s activities, they would receive a year’s worth of Chick-fil-A food.

“They’ll get 52 combo meals, one for every week of the year,” Paulsen said. “We’ve got a great number that we’re happy to have who showed up as early as 6 a.m. this morning.”

Those meals will feature a chicken sandwich, waffle fries and medium soft drink beverage.

It wasn’t open to anyone. Participants who took part had to live within certain ZIP Codes adjacent to the new restaurant to be eligible and be age 18 or older.

Paulsen said his marketing team was responsible for determining the location the two busloads visited throughout the day Wednesday until about 4 p.m.

The community service component is not unusual for the national restaurant chain, as founder S. Truett Cathy at one time said, “We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.” Chick-fil-A, thanks to Cathy, is also a franchise that does not open on Sunday in respect to a church and family day.

As of 6 a.m. Thursday morning, the third DeSoto County restaurant, and the second one operated by Paulsen, will open its doors to customers who have waited months for the chicken sandwich and other menu items the franchise is known for. There will be an official welcome and grand opening event about 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

Paulsen said about 85 employees will operate the Getwell Road restaurant and will be initially assisted by some of his Olive Branch personnel. The 8101 Camp Creek Road restaurant in Olive Branch is actually expected to close for a time as renovations are done to it.

Chick-fil-A’s presence in the Mid-South dates back to nearly 40 years ago, when the first restaurant opened inside Southland Mall in Memphis. Company officials say there are now more than 15 new locations within a 25-mile radius of the city, including the three in DeSoto County.

The growing thoroughfare of Getwell Road could actually take on the name “Poultry Place” or “Chicken Row,” of sorts.

Another popular franchise, Zaxby’s has been an established outlet on Getwell Road for a number of years. Along with the new Chick-fil-A, a Slim Chickens restaurant will soon make its appearance, as it is being constructed south of Chick-fil-A as part of the Silo Square development.

Slim Chickens is a restaurant franchise headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas that has existed since 2003. Southaven will be third restaurant for that franchise in Mississippi to join Ridgeland and Starkville locations.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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