The entrance of restaurant chain Chick-fil-A into the Las Vegas market sends a message about the valley — the outside world is viewing it differently.
Outside brands will continue to see the area as more cosmopolitan, not just synonymous for gaming, said Virginia Martino, CEO of local marketing and communications agency Brand Limited.
Martino sees the opening of furniture superstore IKEA as the start to a wave of outside brands coming to Las Vegas. The area has experienced a perfect storm of non-gaming entertainment with incoming NHL and NFL teams and the ever-growing popularity of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, she said.
Chick-fil-A is famous for a CEO who supports socially conservative values. To open in Henderson indirectly signals that Las Vegas is a market where new brands can break out.
Jeff Mitchell of Virtus Commercial said the new restaurant influenced the decision behind planning the first Corner Bakery Cafe chain in Nevada for the same shopping center on Stephanie Street in Henderson. The other Chick-fil-A that opened to the public Thursday opened at 9925 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson.
“They are a very strong draw, and those eyes will be exposed to Corner Bakery,” Mitchell said.
A SHOT AT FREE FOOD
Missing a tent, sleeping bag, a chair and a pillow, she prepared to camp.
Bethany Skelton, 32, came alone and made friends with the other 99 people with tents, jackets and sleeping bags camping in the parking lot at the new Chick-fil-A, 9925 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson. On Thursday, they were rewarded with 52 free meals.
She didn’t get the first spot in line despite being the first person to arrive, 31 hours prior to the store’s 6 a.m. Thursday opening. At that time, she and the other chicken fans walked through the door of one of Nevada’s first two Chick-fil-A restaurants — the other at 460 N. Stephanie St. in Henderson — and were greeted by applauding employees.
Skelton, bundled in a thick blanket, said she didn’t bring enough for her overnight stays.
“I left my house at 11 p.m. on Tuesday and just came here,” said Skelton, laughing.
She said she grew up in Atlanta and attended the same church as S. Truett Cathy, the company’s late founder known for mixing business and religion.
She would drive to St. George, Utah, and California to get her Chick-fil-A fix. Each time Skelton returns home to Georgia, she said, the first thing she did was grab a meal.
“To me, in the end, it’s not even about winning Chick-fil-A for a year because I have the money, I can pay for my own Chick-fil-A and support it that way,” she said. “But it was about gaining these new people right here and gaining the experience.”
Her and her new-found friends, including 36-year-old Kelly Richardson, played games throughout the night leading to its opening. Richardson also offered her tent to Skelton, who couldn’t sleep for her third consecutive night.
Other campers came more prepared.
Jacob Ewell’s older sister picked him up from Boulder City High School on a whim, took them home to pack sleeping bags, contact lenses, chairs and blankets.
“She was like, ‘hey, you want to go get free Chick-fil-A for a year?’ ” Jacob said.
Their parents brought the siblings a tent later, 20-year-old Alyson Ewell said.
A passing camper stopped to tell Alyson it was nice to meet her.
“We have a lot more friends now,” she said.
Even with their preparation, Alyson said she wasn’t ready for the cold. She was eager to get home, but it was worth it in the end.
“I mean, now I have a lot of chicken,” said Alyson, laughing.
Review-Journal writer Mike Shoro contributed to this report.