WATCHUNG, NJ -- While anyone who had driven along Route 22 in the past few weeks could see the evidence of an imminent opening, the new Chick-fil-A opened on Thursday, June 25, at the intersection of Terrill Road, the longtime home of Sears -- just walking distance from chicken franchise rival Popeye's.

In accordance with social distancing measures, the restaurant is opened for drive-through service only from now until next Thursday, July 2, when eateries will be allowed to open for indoor dining at 25% capacity.

Having run the Chick-fil-A location in the Paramus Park Mall, owner/operator Mike Thornton brings experience with him to Watchung. He was supported by other fellow owners from across the state at his breakfast opening, which came with little advance notice outside of social media. Thornton said that people had begun to line up hours before his restaurant's 8:00 a.m. opening.

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The new Chick-fil-A will be able to draw from many surrounding towns, since the next closest locations are in Union (on Route 22) and in Woodbridge on US 1 and at Woodbridge Center. When the corporation pinpointed the Watching location, Thornton, a Berkeley Heights resident, jumped at the opportunity. His restaurant has already created 120 new jobs at a time when work has quickly and dramatically become scarce. 

"We had applications from people who lost their jobs during the pandemic and from college students whose internships fell through. We are able to give them an opportunity," Thornton said. 

Serving a breaded, boneless chicken breast between two buttered buns is a seemingly simple idea--but it was a novelty for its time. Truett Cathy experimented for years at the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, GA, (outside Atlanta) when in 1964, he finally arrived at the perfect recipe. On that day, the Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich was born, according to the corporate website. The capital A is on purpose – it means "grade A top quality". According to company lore, Truett's customers told him: "We like it, don't change it again." 

Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, According to the company website, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose -- a practice the restaurant chain still upholds today. The company is also closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The corporation's conservative values have been a source of controversy, however. Chick-fil-A has come under fire in the recent past for its owner's same-sex marriage position. Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A began funding a pro-LGBTQ charitable organization that concentrates on providing food and shelter to homeless and runaway young adults. Meanwhile, company sales continue to grow. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Chick-file-A is now the nation's No. 3 restaurant brand with over $10.5 billion in sales -- while operating just six of the seven days of the week.

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