Chick-fil-A is here.
More than 100 Western New Yorkers got their day started at the area's first Chick-fil-A Thursday morning, as the Walden Avenue fast-food restaurant was greeted with a line out the door as well as a lengthy stream of cars at the drive-thru.
"The people who invented the chicken sandwich, finally came to the city that invented the chicken wing," said Joe Vacanti of Clarence, who was first in the drive-thru line.
Vacanti was joined by his friend John Grimaldi of North Tonawanda. Vacanti, 41, and Grimaldi, 30, were in line at 4:30 a.m. after making a spur-of-the-moment early-morning decision to head down.
"I woke up at 3 in the morning, I was going to maybe go exercise, and I figured, you know what, maybe I'll go down for the opening," said Vacanti. "We're big fans of Chick-fil-A. Our family loves it, let’s surprise the wife and kids."
Both Vacanti and Grimaldi said they have made several trips to the Chick-fil-A in Erie, Pa. They were both bringing home breakfasts to their families.
A line of about 30 customers waited outside in 30-degree temperatures for the restaurant's 6:30 a.m. opening. The drive-thru line extended several cars down Anderson Road, a side street where Cheektowaga Police were funneling traffic from Walden.
Drivers heading to the drive-thru today from the I-90 should head east on Walden, past the restaurant on the left, and make a left onto Peppy Place, which will take them to another left onto Dale Drive, behind several stores and eventually to a left on Anderson, which leads to the drive-thru.
"If we go down south for vacation," Vacanti said, "that's basically all we eat. We love Chick-fil-A."
"They quality and service," said Grimaldi. "The quality of food and the best service in the world."
Vacanti exalted the Chick-fil-A sauce. "Kids could sell it in the schools up here on the black market."
"Welcome to Buffalo!" Vacanti said at the drive-thru window as he was handed his food.
First on the outside line was Mike Carriero, 46, of Hamburg, who arrived at 4:30 a.m.
"I was a little shocked when I got here at 4:30 and there was only maybe eight cars in the parking lot," said Carriero, who had a chicken-and-egg biscuit and was bringing 10 more to his coworkers in Orchard Park. "I figured if you come here around lunch time, it's going to be a madhouse."
Carriero, who has visited the restaurant's locations in Erie and the Rochester suburb of Greece, said he was looking forward to a second location in Western New York at the corner of Transit Road and Losson Road (a developer has submitted plans to Cheektowaga's Building Department to build a Chick-fil-A there).
"I think it's going to spread like Tim Hortons around here," he said, citing the ubiquitous coffee shop.
Carriero said he wanted to get up early Thursday because he wasn't able to try to become part of the "First 100" promotion that Chick-fil-A had announced, in which the first 100 customers lined up within 24 hours of Thursday morning's opening would win a one-year supply of free Chick-fil-A meals.
Originally the rules of the promotion were that participants had to remain on-site for 24 hours, with many bringing tents and preparing to spend the night in the snow. However, Chick-fil-A decided that with yesterday's poor weather to distribute the prizes (gift cards loaded with 52 meals) to the 100 customers who had lined up.
Kelly Girdlestone, 40, of Cheektowaga, who earned a card Wednesday evening, came right back Thursday morning. While the cards cover 52 meals, those meals are lunch or dinner, not breakfast.
"They thought I was crazy," Girdlestone said of friends who found out she was lining up for the contest. "It was fun. A free dinner a week, not too bad.
"I got the card at 2 p.m. yesterday so I didn't get the breakfast. I'm so glad Chick-fil-A is here, I love their food."
Glenda Crawley of Buffalo was in and out rather quickly after arriving at 5:45 a.m.
"Their personality and professionalism are very unique -- courtesy makes a difference," said a smiling Crawley, who was going to deliver a chicken biscuit to her son, a Buffalo State college student. "He works hard. ... That's what mothers do."
While Chick-fil-A has been criticized, including on social media ahead of the Western New York opening, for financially supporting organizations that lobbied against gay marriage and promoted gay conversion therapy, there were no protesters at the restaurant Thursday morning.