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Chick-fil-A traditional grand opening sparks passions within the community

Josh+Alexander+cuts+the+ceremonial+ribbon+outside+of+his+new+Chic-fil-a+franchise+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+21%2C+in+Simi+Valley%2C+Calif.+Alexander+is+surrounded+by+his+family+and+many+members+of+the+Simi+Valley+Chamber+of+Commerce.+Photo+credit%3A+Evan+Reinhardt
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Chick-fil-A traditional grand opening sparks passions within the community

Josh Alexander cuts the ceremonial ribbon outside of his new Chic-fil-a franchise on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. Alexander is surrounded by his family and many members of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Josh Alexander cuts the ceremonial ribbon outside of his new Chic-fil-a franchise on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. Alexander is surrounded by his family and many members of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Josh Alexander cuts the ceremonial ribbon outside of his new Chic-fil-a franchise on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. Alexander is surrounded by his family and many members of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Josh Alexander cuts the ceremonial ribbon outside of his new Chic-fil-a franchise on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. Alexander is surrounded by his family and many members of the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Danitza Romero

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The first Chick-fil-A to open in Simi Valley gave locals a taste of the traditional Chick-fil-A grand opening experience, drawing a range of character from the community.

The Atlanta-based restaurant has been hosting overnight campouts since 2003 and Josh Alexander, the local franchise owner, wanted to continue that tradition. He invited the first 100 residents, who live in specific ZIP codes within the Simi Valley area, to participate in the overnight “First 100 Camp Out” party.

If participants stayed the 12 hours preceding to opening day, they would win free Chick-fil-A sandwiches for an entire year. Once individuals qualifications were confirmed by state IDs, 100 fans were selected through a random drawing plus 10 alternates in case there were disqualifications from the First 100 participants.

For Tristen Ross, 23, from West Hills, the campout was his first. After arriving at 2 p.m. the day before with his group of friends, he was the first name called for the First 100 and had no clue what to expect.

“I’m holding my ticket, and I just remember looking at it and I had to repeat it, and then a sudden rush came,” Ross said. “There was no humbleness about it. I just ran up there passing everyone and did a Chick-fil-A dance; jumping up and down.”

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Tristen Ross, left, and Chris Silberman pose for a picture after winning the first and last raffle spots during Chic-fil-a's opening ceremonies on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in Simi Valley, Calif. Both winners received a year's worth of Chic-fil-a coupons. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

As for Curtis Hefner, 25, a Simi Valley resident, he was excited to be the last one called of the First 100. He was quick to explain that he would do anything to be part of the experience of Simi Valley’s Chick-fil-A grand opening.

“It’s a fun experience with friends and [win] free Chick-fil-A for a year,” said Hefner, who first tasted the signature chicken sandwich at the Thousand Oaks location.

The overnight event selects the First 100 eligible participants along with 10 alternates that who are encouraged to continue with the contest even if they are not guaranteed Chick-fil-A for a year.

The last alternate chosen of the night was Chris Silberman, 19, from Simi Valley and student at Moorpark College. His friend, Tristen Ross, also a participant, provided the motivation to continue with the contest.

“All I could hear was screaming in my head and Tristen was in my ear telling me let’s go,” said Silberman, once he heard his number being called as an alternate.

After the First 100 participants plus 10 alternates had been selected and verification paperwork was completed, they started to set up their tents in the parking lot for the campout party.

Music was playing and family and friends were building their campsite when 12 protestors organized on the sidewalk in front of Chick-fil-A. They were prepared with a bullhorn speaker to have their voice be heard amongst the chicken lovers camping out.

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Zafir Molina protests the opening of the new Chick-fil-A, and animal cruelty, during the opening ceremonies on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in Simi Valley, Calif. According to Molina, the lives of animals and the future of our planet are more important than a chicken sandwich. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

“We are here to be the voice for the voiceless,” said Laurie Matola, 41, from Simi Valley protesting to protect animal rights.

As part of the vegan community, Matola said she wanted to bring awareness to Simi Valley residents and educate about how fast food organizations, like Chick-fil-A, use animal cruelty practices to provide restaurants with food.

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The Chick-fil-A cow mascot leads in the raffle winners, including Tristen Ross, to collect their year supply of Chick-fil-A coupons on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. The cow mascot spent the morning dancing and pumping up the crowd out in the cold morning air. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

At 6 a.m. the restaurant opened its doors and the participants started their morning as the winners of free Chick-fil-A sandwiches for a year, while the 10 alternates received a consolation prize of 10 Chick-Fil-A coupons.

As the doors were open to the public at 6.30 a.m., Elena Pineda, 40, from Simi Valley, was the first official customer at the Simi Valley location. She walked in with excitement thinking she could be part of the First 100, but later realized that there were more Chick-fil-A fans in the area then she thought.

“I am excited that they are open now and I live around the block [so] I can walk here,” said Pineda, the first customer to order chicken minis on opening day.

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Isabella Juarez, left, takes the first official order from Elena Pineda during opening morning of the new Chick-fil-A, on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. According to Juarez, she formerly worked at a Panera Bread location in Simi Valley, and took the opportunity to upgrade to a better company. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

At 9 a.m., the ribbon cutting of the Sycamore Square Chick-fil-A was celebrated with Simi Valley’s Chamber of Commerce. Festivities continued with a “first bite” ceremony, which involved individuals biting into Chick-fil-A’s famous chicken sandwich as a symbol of celebrating the grand opening of the 2,407th Chick-fil-A location.

“New businesses bring new excitement,” said Kathi Van Etten, President/CEO of Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce. Etten is pleased that Simi Valley has a new business like Chick-Fil-A.

Not only has Simi Valley gained a Chick-fil-A, but the restaurant also hired 134 employees, which consist of 15 to 20 students of Moorpark College.

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The Chick-fil-A staff shout and rattle metal pans, welcoming the first 100 customers, and raffle winners, during opening day of the new location on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Simi Valley, Calif. The new location has hired over 130 new employees. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

One of the recent hires is Marketing Leader (Director), Doriana Siguenza, 19, from Simi Valley, who firmly believes that the business classes she took at Moorpark, especially one with Professor Josepha Baca, helped her land the job. In her role, she hopes to focus on the care aspect for the community and touch those that walk into Chick-fil-A.

“My hope with my role would be to go out to the community, so if they need a quick connection to us and Josh isn’t available,” Siguenza said, “I want to be the second hand where the community can go to.”

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Franchise owner Josh Alexander poses for the first bite photo with Hannah Alexander, his wife, and Prather Alexander, their 18 month old son, during the ribbon cutting of the newly opened Chick-fil-A in Simi Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 21. According to Jason Alexander, his family moved to Simi Valley recently in order to open this location. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Since the Chick-fil-A is now open, Josh Alexander moved his family from Louisville, Kentucky for his first franchise-owned business. He started his affiliation with the franchise after serving as a marketing intern during his senior year at the University of Kentucky. He even met his wife, Hannah, at Chick-fil-A in Louisville, KY

According to Alexander, his goal is for customers to feel connected and wishes for all of Simi Valley to taste their famous chicken sandwich. He hopes to be an influence of care for the community.

“I want people to know that Chick-fil-A cares, that is our goal,” said Alexander. “I want to connect people to Chick-fil-A and to one another.”

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About the Writer
Danitza Romero, Staff writer
Danitza Romero is a returning student and excited to start a new adventure in the industry of journalism. Besides being a reporter for Student Voice, she interviews up-and-coming artists for allaccess.com. She is a Baylor University alumna.
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