Amber Thomas was an intern at Chick-Fil-A just five years ago. She started working with the restaurant chain when she was only 17 years old. Today, Thomas has transitioned from an intern at Chick-Fil-A to a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner in her hometown of Spring Valley, California, a suburb of San Diego.
Thomas has not always aspired to become an entrepreneur. She wanted to be a physical therapist and flatly rejected the suggestion from her mother to become a Chick-Fil-A franchise owner. However, she was inspired by her sister to be a franchise owner and the journey began from there.
Monica Hopkins, Thomas’ mother, told 10News: “She wanted to be a physical therapist and she was adamant about that. She was like, ‘No, mom. I’m not going to be a Chick-fil-A owner,’ and then it just got in her blood. Her sister inspired her to be an owner and it went from there.”
Thomas has described her experience of being a franchise owner as “surreal,” adding that she is still coming to terms with the fact that she owns a Chick-Fil-A.
“I never thought coming into this parking lot saying like, ‘Hey, one day I’m going to own and operate a Chick-fil-A in this location.’ So, it goes back to making it feel surreal. I’m still trying to register the fact that I’m here, that I’m serving this community,” Thomas said of her franchise located at 931 Sweetwater Road, at Jamacha Boulevard.
Growing up in Virginia, it was a tradition for the family to eat out at Chick-fil-A for Tuesday kids nights. And when the family moved to San Diego, they drove 45 minutes for dinner at the closest Chick-fil-A.
Thomas said her desire is to create a family-friendly atmosphere at her franchise.
“To me and my family, Chick-fil-A was a place of togetherness, which is what I hope to create in Spring Valley – serving the community and those who are under-resourced while offering opportunities to the next generation of team members,” she told Times of San Diego.
Since becoming a franchise owner, Thomas said many Black people have come in to support her. Besides the overwhelming support she has received, she also sees it as a big deal for other Black women to aspire to be like her.
“I’ve had so many come in and provide support and saying like, ‘Hey, it is great to see someone who looks like me running a restaurant and owning a restaurant in our community,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ restaurant, which is expected to create jobs for 160 people, will also be part of the Chick-fil-A Shared Table Program. According to the Times of San Diego, the program gives surplus food from the restaurant to people in need, including local soup kitchens and food banks.