Which came first, the chicken or the chicken sandwich? I know, but it makes about as much sense as that chicken and egg question. I say that not only because I am a creationist, but also because if the egg came first, who sat on it? A friend said he ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon so he could see which one came first. The chicken came first, and the egg came from the chicken, as did the chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A made the chicken sandwich. Their slogan says “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.” I’m not sure exactly who first created a chicken sandwich, but I do know that Chick-fil-A has definitely made and sold a multitude of them.
Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, created the recipe for his chicken sandwich in 1964. Before there was a Chick-fil-A, Cathy owned and operated a restaurant called the Dwarf House, in Hapeville, Georgia. Eighteen years after they opened, a poultry supplier who had produced too many chicken breasts, approached Cathy. He came up with a fast way to cook them and offered his lunch customers a new menu choice: the chicken sandwich. In 1967, he opened the first Chick Fil A store inside Greenbrier Mall, in Atlanta.
I ate my first one in 1975. I was a student at Samford University when I saw a fast food place down the street in Brookwood Mall. I had no idea that the manager there was Truett Cathy’s daughter and a fellow Samford student. I had never heard of the place, but decided to go out on a limb and give it a try. Forty-four years later, I’ve eaten enough Chick-fil-A sandwiches and chicken biscuits to fill up a chicken house.
About twenty-five years ago, when I served as a pastor in Rainbow City, we invited Mr. Cathy, who was a committed Christian, to speak at our church. After church he took my family and me out to eat. He said, “We will eat anywhere you want, except Chick-fil-A.” He smiled as he said that because his restaurants are never open on Sundays. I honestly don’t remember where we ate, but I have never forgotten spending that time with Truett Cathy. The car collecting, motorcycle riding, billionaire restaurant-chain owner, was as down to earth and enjoyable as could be. He treated us like we were old friends or even family. He explained why his stores were not open on Sundays. He said the decision to close on Sundays was a way of honoring God and allowing his employees an opportunity to rest and to worship as they chose.
Last week, my friends Chyron and Lynda Wood, and I, spent a day at Chick-fil-A corporate headquarters. Martha Lawrence was our host. She is also the Wood’s daughter. She has spent twenty-five years with the company, including the last seventeen of Mr. Cathy’s life as his administrative assistant. She helped create and now oversees the Chick-fil-A heritage archives. We had lunch at The Dwarf House, toured the corporate building and immaculate grounds, and visited the archives building. We viewed Mr. Cathy’s antique car collection, including The Bat Mobile, and toured his office which is as it was on his last day there. An open Bible still sets on his desk. Scripture verses are in numerous places throughout the premises. The company that still operates according to Christian principles, including closing on Sundays, now has almost 2400 stores and generated $10.5 billion last year. Obviously, doing things the right way pays. Thank you Mr. Cathy for your shining example.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.