Victoria Mullins, a UVa-Wise sophomore, had an eventful and exciting lunch on Friday. The Clintwood native was one of the first in line to sample the lunch offerings at the new Chick-fil-A in the Slemp Student Center on campus.

“I’m really glad it’s here,” she said as waited to join the growing line as the fast food chain staff prepared for a soft opening so UVa-Wise employees, students and community members could try free samples of the chain’s popular items. “I’m changing my meal plan to the swipe plan so I can eat here all the time. I’m looking forward to it.”

Mullins said the fact that the Chick-fil-A staff had to be trained by the corporate personnel impressed her.

“Every friend I know is super excited,” she added.

After a brief ribbon cutting featuring Chancellor Donna P. Henry and officials with the Wise County and City of Norton Chamber of Commerce, Chartwells official Brett Lawson welcomed those in line to a free lunch.

Mullins placed her sandwich, fries and a drink on her tray and looked for a place to tuck in. Fellow student Emily Mullins, no relation, joined her. Both declared the first bite delicious.

Chancellor Henry and her daughters, Jessie and Maggie, enjoyed lunch with the crowd as well.

“It tastes pretty good,” Jessie Henry said.

Lawson, head of the Chartwells Dining Services on campus, was all smiles as the crowd moved quickly through the line.

“I’m extremely excited that we will be open to the public on Monday,” he said. “I’ve been talking to students here for 16 years and Chick-fil-A has always been at the top of the list when we ask them what food choices they would like to see on campus.”

Lawson said having a Chick-fil-A at UVa-Wise is a great opportunity for local residents who are looking for jobs in the region as well.

“We’ve hired 16 new employees,” Lawson said. “Six of them are students, and we have plans to hire more students as demand increases.”

Lawson believes the new fast food facility will attract more students to campus as well. The chain remains at the top of the list of most popular fast food establishments in the United States.

Rick Colley, executive director of the Wise County and City of Norton Chamber of Commerce, said the success of the Chick-fil-A will show other companies that the region can support new restaurants. Colley added that having the popular chain on campus will also be a draw for UVa-Wise in terms of growth.

The eatery is located on the fourth floor of the Slemp Student Center. It will open to the public on Jan. 8, and the hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The restaurant will be open on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.