by Florenz Legaspi, ABS-CBN News
JACKSONVILLE, FL — The Jollibee craze has reached the Sunshine State.
On Saturday, Floridians braved the chilly weather just to be among the lucky early patrons, as the first ever Jollibee location in Florida opened its doors at in the city of Jacksonville.
“I’m excited, I’m celebrating!” says Helen de Nardis from Westside Jacksonville. de Nardis was the very first customer in line.
Jollibee Foods Corporations group president for North America Jose Miñana says lines started forming the night before opening day.
“As usual, nagulat na naman kami sa excited na mga kasama natin, mga kababayan natin na, naghihintay sila dito,” said Miñana. “Nagsiratingan mga 11pm, 2am, 3am — sila dumating dito. Nag drive sila from midnight.”
“We were just standing in line like 2am. It’s so worth it, even if it’s cold. I just love Jollibee.” said Jojo de Nardis.
Carina and Andre Velasco drove a from Winter Haven with their two children, all craving Chickenjoy and Jollibee spaghetti.
“We left like, probably 9 o’clock sa Winter Haven, tapos dating namin dito around 12:30, 1 o’clock. Nag camp out kami sa kotse,” they said.
For many kababayans, Jollibee brings a sense of nostalgia, and even a bit a homesickness.
“It feels like home. We miss home,” said the Velascos. “Nagho-homesick kami, and eating Filipino food — especially jollibee, it’s kinda like home.”
This is the 36th Jollibee store in America, as well as the first in the state of Florida and the South East US. The company says there are more stores to come.
“The next main thing would be in Manhattan, towards the latter half of the year, and we’ll be opening a few more else in Canada,” said Miñana.
The company’s aggressive expansion in North America is part of its overarching goal to be among the top five restaurant brands globally.