The Chick-fil-A on Gunbarrel Road made a day's worth of sales by the end of lunch Wednesday.
"We've probably served 2,000 customers already," said Mitch Collins, franchise operator of the restaurant. "It's insane. We've had a line since the time we opened."
About 11:30 a.m., workers' voices could barely be heard above the chatter of people who turned out for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day -- a day created by former presidential candidate and TV show host Mike Huckabee to show support for the restaurant after gay rights groups threatened to boycott it following comments that Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy made against gay marriage.
Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage."'
On Gunbarrel, cars in line for the drive-through window wrapped around the building, blocking traffic on the street next to the restaurant.
Linda Summers, 55, from Dayton, Tenn., said she had seen a similar scene at other Chick-fil-A restaurants in the area.
"We passed the one at Northgate Mall early this morning, and it was packed out," she said as she waited in line. "It was like 7 a.m., and it was already like this."
Many customers said they were eating at the restaurant to show their support of Cathy, offering calls of "Good for you" to fellow customers as they waited in line.
"I'm just here supporting what I believe in," said Paige Coomer, 25. "I'm originally from Atlanta. My friend's dad works for Chick-fil-A, and I've always supported Chick-fil-A and what it stands for."
Collins said he believed most customers came because they feel Chick-fil-A restaurants shouldn't be punished for the opinion of the company's president.
Customer Bill Baker, 64, offered a similar opinion.
"Because I support traditional marriage does not mean I'm against you," he said. "For them to take it out of context and say, 'I'm not going to support you because you believe in that' -- there's not a reason to boycott."
But for lone protester Gaby Dixon, 22, from Hixson, the fact that Chick-fil-A donated funding to groups that work to oppress rights for gay people is a reason to boycott.
Chick-fil-A's charitable division has donated to anti-gay marriage groups including the Family Research Council and the Marriage and Family Foundation.
"I can tolerate people speaking their own beliefs -- they have a right to say whatever," she said. "But we're not arguing about chicken. We're arguing about my rights as a person."
Dixon constructed a sign that read "Ask me how I became a second-class citizen" after she saw no other protesters outside the restaurant on Gunbarrel. As she stood on the sidewalk, a lady in a passing car honked and gave her a thumbs up.
Dixon said many passers-by had given her signs of encouragement, but an equal number of drivers had flipped her off or yelled "some pretty crude stuff" in her direction.
On Friday, gay rights groups say they plan to host "National Same Sex Kiss Day" at Chick-fil-As across the country, but Dixon was unsure if something would be taking place in the Chattanooga area.
"I was surprised there aren't more people out here -- actually, I'm shocked and disappointed," she said. "I guess people have to work, but I thought there'd be more people out here."
Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...
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