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Buzz greets Columbia's first White Castle

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 6:19 p.m. CDT; updated 6:43 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
White Castle General Manager Caryn Smith (left) and employee Audric Drake prepare burgers at a new location on Clark Lane on Tuesday night. Smith says she can lay 30 buns on a grill in under a minute.

COLUMBIA — They had the "crave," and it's finally been satisfied.

Columbia's first White Castle opened Sunday on Clark Lane to the people of a slider-hungry city. There were three Facebook groups dedicated to the cause:

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Fans organized a Facebook opening party event. Most attendees posted on the event's page that they had to wait more than an hour for their burgers, but that it was worth it.

Greg Arendall and his son, Michael, secured their place in White Castle history by being the store's first customers. 

"Me and my son got there at 5:30 a.m.," said Arendall, 53. "The atmosphere was great. People were telling White Castle stories and taking pictures of each other in line."

The first 10 customers were even given a gift bag.

Arendall, a New Franklin resident, calls himself a "White Castle fanatic." He recalls giving his son a piece of a White Castle burger as his first solid baby food.

Arendall said he plans to drive to Columbia at least twice a week.

Ian Young, the man behind the Facebook event and the creator of the "Bring White Castle to Columbia Missouri" page, said he waited about an hour to get his hands on a slider.

"It was neat, all the people there were sharing in something we all enjoy," said Young, 29.

Young and his friends frequented the store in Wentzville, but because they are from Columbia, they wanted a White Castle closer to home.

Terry Benda, the regional assistant director for restaurant operations for White Castle Management Co., confirmed that there were more than 25,000 burgers sold in the first 24 hours. A Vox report also said more than 300 Crave Cases were sold on opening day. Crave Cases, in keeping with White Castle's "What You Crave" slogan, are boxes of 30 hamburgers each.

Benda said that the turnout was one of the restaurant chain's best openings and that the mood was energetic and enthusiastic.

"Everybody had smiles on their faces when they got their food," he said.

Benda said he was not aware of the Facebook groups but said that White Castle management had been looking for the right location in Columbia for about 15 years.

Reactions on Facebook and Twitter varied from the enthusiastic to the skeptical.

Twitter user Kitty Elizabeth tweeted,"I probably won't feel like a real Midwesterner until I make a venture there. #WhiteCastle."

Another user, Patrick Cornell, tweeted: "People are freaking out over the opening of #WhiteCastle in Columbia. I just don't see the appeal."

People also tweeted their feelings as they waited in line.

"Some of Columbia's finest have turned out for the #WhiteCastle opening,"Garet Marling tweeted. "A guy ahead of me looks like he's never eaten anywhere else."


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