Like hundreds of customers before and after her Wednesday, Amy Mullivan and her four children waited in line with a sea of others at the Chick-fil-A on Atlanta Highway.
“I’m here to say that I support a company that has Christian values,” Mullivan said. “I’ve always been attracted to this company because of what they do for other people and for their values.”
The Cumming location was one of many nationwide that were flooded with customers opening their wallets in solidarity for what was being billed as “Appreciation Day.”
The effort was launched by former Arkansas governor and past Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who used social media to encourage supporters of the eatery to rally behind it.
The support follows public backlash over a statement made by the restaurant’s president and chief operating officer, Dan Cathy.
In an interview, Cathy said the company is supportive of family, specifically, “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
As word of the interview got out, as well as information the company donates money to what have been called both pro-family and anti-gay groups, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights organizations and supporters have rallied against the fast food chain.
Public officials from various cities and other businesses have taken a stand against the company. Its supporters, as evidenced by the overwhelming crowds Wednesday, have done likewise.
Mike Ridzon, owner of the Cumming Chick-fil-A, called the crowd “unprecedented.”
“It’s huge. I haven’t looked at all the numbers yet, but it’s significant,” he said.
Since Cathy’s comments, Ridzon said his restaurant is “seeing an upward trend” in business.
But Ridzon added that his restaurant is just that — a restaurant.
“We’re here to serve chicken,” he said. “There is no battle … we’re just trying to do the best we can to serve chicken and to be thankful for all those who want to eat chicken with us any time.
“We’re going to serve people and treat them with honor, dignity and respect no matter who they are … our customers are our customers.”
Some of those customers, including Rita Adams, attended the appreciation day because of the religious aspect.
“We just want to make a stand for the comment that Mr. Cathy made … that he took a stand for not supporting homosexuality,” Adams said.
She was surprised at the size of the crowd, but I was “very glad to see it.”
Adams and her two grandchildren were able to sit, eat and leave the restaurant within an hour, despite the lines.
Susan Waters said she came to “make sure that families are supported.”
“I could eat here every day with or without this event,” she said. “I come here pretty often already.”
Cumming customer Dave Zimney first tried an Alpharetta location of the eatery, which he said had drawn more than 500 people. He came out Wednesday to support the company for its right to express an opinion.
“I don’t think Cumming is unique,” he said. “I think people are going out and it’s not a matter of being anti-gay, that is not the issue. This is a matter of free speech.”
It’s also what brought out Patty and Cindy Rotton. The sisters say the issue is important to rally behind.
“I believe in free speech,” Cathy Rotton said. “They have a right to express their opinion just like everybody else does.”