First-grader Andrew Fitzgerald shows off his uniform and his work ethic that was on display at River Ridge Academy’s Career Day. COURTESY FITZGERALD FAMILY

From the minute he heard there would be a career day at River Ridge Academy, Andrew Fitzgerald was excited to share his epic plan with his classmates.

The 7-year-old in Ms. Dotson’s first grade class wants to share his love of Chick-Fil-A with the world, so he was going to be a Chick-Fil-A owner.

He found out the day before that kids would be able to get dressed up for Career Day, so he and mom Sara sprang into quick action. Sara called the Malphrus Road Chick-Fil-A and asked if they could make Andrew a real authentic name tag.

“They were so nice, it was such short notice and they were excited that Andrew was so excited,” Sara said.

Even on a rainy night, Andrew was excited to get a bonus trip to his favorite restaurant.

“I love the chicken and the waffle fries and so to get a name tag, too, was so cool,” he said.

In case you think this is some fleeting whim, you don’t know Andrew. He won River Ridge Student of the Month in January for perseverance.

“Once he gets on to an idea, he stops at nothing to see it through,” said his father, John. He said the family vacationed on Hilton Head Island a couple years ago and then-5-year-old Andrew “opened” an eatery in their Disney resort hotel room, running it out of the bathroom.

“He borrowed some food from the pantry and then was selling it back to us,” John said. “He’s been focused on getting into the food business for a good bit now.”

Andrew plans to go into business with his older brother, 10-year-old Liam. There is a plan in the works to bring Bluffton something unlike it has ever seen.

“Liam is going to own a car dealership. He loves cars,” Andrew said. “And I’m going to open up a Chick-Fil-A inside the car dealership. So when you’re waiting for your car, you can have some chicken.”

What about their oldest brother, 12-year-old Jack? Is he in on this collaboration?

“Nah, he’s pretty focused on reptiles. He’s going to sell reptiles and stuff,” Andrew said. “I like bearded dragons too, but I like Chick-Fil-A more.”

Mom was able to get a red shirt from Target and the name tag was waiting for Andrew when they got to the restaurant. And a neighbor supplied the perfectly logo’ed hat.

Andrew said his uniform was a huge hit at Career Day. Just one problem: his classmates were looking for chicken that was already in Andrew’s belly.

“My buddy Josiah wanted the chicken, but I ate it the night before,” he said. “Josiah tackled me for the chicken and then I tackled him back.”

The Fitzgeralds are new to Bluffton after living their entire lives in northern Virginia. When Sara found out she could do her federal government job from home, the couple made an offer on a Hampton Lakes home sight unseen the next day.

“We had never been to Bluffton, just drove through 278 to get to the island,” Fitzgerald said. “But we absolutely love it here. People are friendly and happy to be here. It’s just a completely different way of life.”

The parents are particularly impressed with the teachers at River Ridge. They home schooled their kids during the pandemic but were excited to get them back to in-person learning in Bluffton.

“I know what the rankings say, but I just know what we’ve experienced,” Sara said. “Up north, it was so crowded, the education was so impersonal. Here, they truly take the time with each kid to make them feel special. Just that award and the one that Jack won for honesty, they truly know our kids. Those awards fit their personality perfectly.”

Andrew has been a big fan of Bluffton and of River Ridge.

“Everyone is so nice. I love recess and playing with my friends and I just love learning,” he said.

The career day superstar was impressed with a couple of the grown-ups that shared their career. There was one in particular that he might pursue on top of opening the Chick-Fil-A.

“I loved the tow truck. The guy from Tommy’s Towing was so cool, so nice,” he said. “But I’m still doing the Chick-Fil-A.”

A little swag from the eatery might sweeten the deal. The Fitzgeralds posted Andrew’s career day photo on Facebook and the folks at the fast food company’s corporate headquarters were so impressed, they said to expect a care package in the mail soon.

“That’s going to be the best,” Andrew said.

So, you heard it here first. You will be reading all about Andrew and Liam’s cars and chicken superstore combo in the New Business Update in 2036.

“I’m going to wait until I’m 21. It will be a little bit of my parents’ money and a little bit of mine,” he said. “And when we make money, I’m going to take care of my parents.”

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton.