Newnan Dwarf House hosts 'Spirit Night' Saturday to honor retiring manager

By CHRIS GOLTERMANN One of Allen Queen's final "Spirit Nights" at the Chick-fil-A Newnan Dwarf House will be for a cause near and dear to his heart. Chick-fil-A's raving fans in Newnan can rest easy. As it has since it opened in 1993, the Newnan Dwarf House will continue to be there to serve the community's needs, having hosted dozens of fundraisers for organizations spanning the alphabet in Coweta County, from the American Red Cross to Western Elementary School.
Saturday's "Spirit Night," however, hits even closer to home for Queen, who has a family member suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The longtime Dwarf House general manager and Newnan resident will be retiring at the end of March following 31 years with Chick-fil-A, including the last 19 and counting as a member of this community. A portion of Saturday's proceeds from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Dwarf House on Bullboro Drive will go to the family of Queen's 44-year-old nephew, Chris, who has five children, ages 3 through 16. "My staff insisted on doing something for me. At this point I'd be happy taking my $30 watch and go. But I'd much rather be able to do a fundraiser to help a family member," Queen said after being approached by his staff members. "I told them, 'I don't want anything. Please don't get me anything. You've all done so much for me all these years.'" Looking for a way to honor Queen, members of his Dwarf House leadership staff along with Coweta Solicitor General Robert Stokely suggested a "Spirit Night" in order to help support Queen's family and wish him well in retirement. "Allen does so much for everybody else. This is just a way to say thank you," Stokely said. "He's given our community so much. It's not just through Chick-fil-A either. He does so much out of his own back pocket. I've known him to pick up a tab when someone was struggling and say, 'I'm praying for you.'" Queen, who finally gave in to wife Carla after putting off retirement the last few years, has spent most of this month getting things ready for his successor. On Wednesday, he was out looking for brand new trash receptacles for the store. "Even now he's thinking of others, trying to get this place ready," longtime Dwarf House night manager Lynne Colbert said. "He's done so, so much for this community. We'd just like to give something back to him to honor his legacy." On Wednesday, as he does every week, Ray McClain took three of his grandchildren to eat at the Dwarf House -- Daegan, age 9, along with Natalie, 8, and Mary Hollis, 3. "They say this is the place to be," he said, smiling. McClain, who's been a regular since Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in Coweta County and still has the receipt of the store's first sale in 1993, says he plans on getting Queen to sign it on Saturday, having gotten to know him well over the past two decades. "He treats everybody the same and with respect," McClain said. "My thoughts of him are the same as for Mr. [Truett] Cathy." On five occasions -- among the most ever in Chick-fil-A history -- Queen has earned Chick-fil-A's highest honor known as the "Symbol of Success," which is awarded to Dwarf House managers and Chick-fil-A owner/operators who have achieved the highest sales percentage growth among its chain of more than 1,600 restaurants. If Queen were to point to his own accolades, however, the one that he's most proud of is the $600,000 in scholarships that team members have earned during his career. It translates to 600 that have been awarded the S. Truett Cathy Scholar Awards. "In my 31 years, the one goal I really was shooting for was to set the record for the most scholarship money from one operator," Queen said. During his career, Queen has also produced fellow Chick-fil-A store operators that once worked for him, including Ronnie Clotfelter of the Coweta Crossroads restaurant. "The last time we figured it out was about 40 staff members," he said. "Those are some of the things I'm probably most proud of. The people and the relationships is what it's all about." Well over 70 organizations within the county have benefited through Spirit Nights at the Dwarf House, including a "Superhero Night" last month for 2-year-old Colin DePriest, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a newborn. "Rarely, if ever, have I seen Allen turn down a Spirit Night,'" Colbert said. The Dwarf House has regularly sponsored "Touch-a-Truck" outings where children can have a hands-on look at the county and city's police and fire rescue vehicles. Last year when a special benefit concert was held at the restaurant to help the family of late Coweta County firefighter Chris Landreau, the overflow crowd stood under tents -- and others in the rain -- to show their support. It's what makes Queen proud to be a Newnan resident. "It's amazing how this town rallies," Queen said. "That's the thing I'll most remember. People in this community just open their hearts." Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer for the event can contact Stokely at 678-416-1387 or email .

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