The national restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has been in the news lately, after the company’s president and CEO reaffirmed that the company supports what he calls “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
That’s drawn the reactions you’d expect from backers and opponents of same-sex marriage. And then, a twist to the story right here in New Hampshire: the franchise owner of the Chick-Fil-A at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua announced his restaurant would serve as a sponsor of the New Hampshire Pride Festival next week in Manchester, even as the national company was taking a very different position.
There were hundreds of customers this afternoon at Chick-Fil-A’s sole New Hampshire location, even as other parts of the mall food court were relatively quiet. We weren’t able to get in, and we couldn't get the owner, Anthony Piccola, to talk with us. But Chick-Fil-A’s public relations firm in Atlanta sent us a statement that reads in part:
As an independent franchise Operator I am dedicated to supporting our local community in the best ways possible and we give to a wide variety of causes in Nashua. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect –regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.
The senior director of the New Hampshire Pride Fest, Ryan Manseau, says the unusual partnership started when he and some of the Pride Fest organizers stopped by Chick-Fil-A after what he calls an unsuccessful and frustrating day of community canvassing.
“It was kind of a joke, maybe a little prank protest, going down to the Pheasant Lane Mall and stashing some of our flyers," Manseau explains. "We watched a manager-type fellow go over and pick up all the flyers. Anthony Piccola turned out to be the sole proprietor of the business, and he offered us lunch. That was his marketing director and us, and he decided on the spot that he wanted to sponsor us.”
Manseau says Piccola has agreed to give away food at the fest rather than sell it, as a show of good faith. Still, he says, some Pride Fest supporters aren’t convinced there’s any room for the company at the festival.
“The LGBTQ community is actually very upset with New Hampshire Pride for accepting their assistance. The LGBTQ community thinks that they’re just evil and they’re tricking us," he says, laughing. "After speaking with Anthony, I know personally and I think I can trust him, that this is not going to happen in the way that a lot of people think it’s going to happen, that he is trying to establish peace between two opposing communities and bring about change.”
The New Hampshire Pride Fest is scheduled for August 11th in Manchester.
NHPR's Tina Forbes contributed to this report.