Fans Camp Out in Howland for Chick-fil-A ‘First 100’

HOWLAND TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Joseph Seman, an employee of Marvin Tree Service, was part of the crew who cleared the site for the new Howland Commons Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant when the project manager mentioned its “First 100” celebration.

To celebrate the opening of new stores, the chain gives away a card loaded with 52 meals to the first 100 adults. This store, the chain’s first in Trumbull County, opens at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and began registration at 6 a.m. today.

Seman arrived at 10:30 p.m. Monday to wait for his chance for one of 100 cards.

“I thought it’d be kind of cool to be one of the first 100 people,” he said.

Seman was among the 20 in the community of tents, tables — even an air mattress — camped out as of 9:30 this morning in the parking lot of the new restaurant.

The opening-day promotion was born 12 years ago when people began lining up outside a new Chick-fil-A. “Some folks were just so excited about one of our [new] locations that they lined up early and were just so excited to be the first customers,” said spokeswoman Angie Slifer. “We just decided to make an event out of it and award them something for being such faithful guests.”

For several years, Chick-fil-A has operated stores in the Southern Park Mall in Boardman and on U.S. Route 224 in Poland – its first store in Ohio outside a mall – and last year opened a restaurant in the student union of Youngstown State University.

The company saw a “great opportunity” in the Niles-Howland area and in Trumbull County, said Derek Emerson, owners of the new restaurant.

“Things are happening up here – a lot of construction, new projects going on – and we just felt it was a great time to be in the Trumbull County area,” he said.

“We just had to find the right spot,” he added. “Some of that is just working through, finding the right piece of land that would hold our store and just the capacity that we needed with Chick-fil-A.”

During the time before the restaurant opens, its staff provides breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as refreshments to those camped out. A disc jockey will be on hand later today as well as games and an ice cream party, Slifer said.

“We try to make it enjoyable. We don’t take it lightly that these folks are so dedicated and love our chicken so much,” she said.

Chick-fil-A recently revised its First 100 to make it more local. Thus, only adults with addresses within a limited number ZIP codes can participate, she said. Before that change, Chick-fil-A saw participants who had been to 60 or 70 openings.

Marie Huang, a student at Kent State University, drove here from an hour away with a group of friends to arrive at 6 a.m. Although she admitted she is missing a few classes, she “wasn’t going to pass up” 52 free meals, she said.

“It’s better than Ramen [noodles}, you know? I love Chick-fil-A, though, so I’m really excited,” she remarked.

Pictured: Joseph Seman camps outside the new restaurant.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.