Alumnus Brad Burkholder Becomes the 2,002nd Owner/Operator of Chick-fil-A

On a bitter Thursday morning in March, Chick-fil-A opened its 2,002nd restaurant near Harrisburg PA. Its owner — not even thirty years old — is Cairn alumnus Brad Burkholder ’09.
“I’m going to stand near my wife, Janelle, when I talk because that always makes me feel better,” said Brad, as he took the microphone to talk about his journey to Chick-fil-A. Brad shared his story of not even knowing Chick-fil-A existed until he moved from Harrisburg to Langhorne to attend Cairn University.
Brad entered Cairn by attending the Wisconsin Wilderness Campus. “I thought I wanted to be a youth pastor,” Brad said. But as he went on to study business at Cairn, he came to dream of owning a business. As he rose in Chick-fil-A leadership, that became a reality.
Each Chick-fil-A is independently owned and operated, so the expense and vetting process for owners and operators is incredibly involved. Owners are now limited to three franchises, so they can maintain a goal of maximizing impact on the local community.
Brad-and-NateCommunity was a clear focal point as Brad spoke about his journey and his desire to live life with the local community, with Chick-fil-A a part of that goal. Brad told Alumni Director Nate Wambold that he sat in the unopened restaurant with his wife the night before the opening and said, “This is it. This is what I have been dreaming about since I was a student at Cairn.”
Judging by the success of the first day, with the restaurant in a great location right off of Harrisburg’s I-283, this humble servant of the Lord is set up for success.
As for that desire to be a youth pastor? Brad told Cairn President Todd Williams, who was present to offer the opening prayer for the ceremony, “I just hired 80 people, and 40 of them are in high school. I have a youth group here that I am responsible for!”
Meanwhile, in the parking lot, one mother walked her son — a new employee — to the car. “He’s excited.  He just got hired, but he’s homeschooled and is a little concerned about balancing his school work and a job,” she said.
With Brad’s heart for the youth under his care, his desire to impact and regularly engage with the community, and his insistence that these 80 people are now part of his family, that young man will be just fine.


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