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Local Culver’s Owner Finds Solace in Religion

Justin Obriecht, who opened his first Culver's location in Tinley Park in 2001, shared his conversion from atheism to Christianity during a talk at an Orland Park church.

Justin Obriecht thought he had it all.

"I had a good life,” said Obriecht recently at Hope Covenant Church. “I had enough money, I didn't have a lot of stress. Things were really good for me as an atheist."

Starting with his first restaurant opening in Tinley Park in 2001, Obriecht went on to open Culver’s locations in Orland Park, Tinley Park, Frankfort, Homewood and Matteson. But he later found something was missing.

Obriecht came bearing Butterburgers, custard, a few of his employees and his testimony at Hope Covenant Church in Orland Park. Over 100 people came out to enjoy dollar Butterburgers and Culver's custard before listening to Obriecht’s story.

"I opened up a business when everyone thought the world was coming to an end," Obriecht said.  

Days after the 9/11 attack, Justin was preparing to open his first Culver's restaurant in Tinley Park. Just 25, Obriecht was the youngest person to open up a Culvers restaurant. Three years later, the Tinley Park Culver's had $3 million in sales, more than any other Culver's.

Five years after he found the success in Tinley Park, Obriecht opened restaurants in the other four nearby towns.

"The south suburbs have supported us amazingly,” he said. “I give a lot of that credit to the people of the south suburbs."

Obriecht gave back along the way. He participated in cancer walks, fundraisers for area schools and other philanthropy.

"I was an atheist but I wasn't a bad person,” Obriecht said. “I wasn't cheating, I wasn't stealing but I swore a little too much. The only difference is when you have a belief in God and you know God, he expects you to be more disciplined.”

Obriecht was traveling when he stopped in Tennessee, and began meditating around 2 a.m. He suddenly felt a warmth and peace come over him. He said that Jesus came into his life at that moment.

Obriecht immediately called his mother, who had become a Christian a few years before. She had almost the same experience.

Today, Obriecht is a member of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. His talk at Hope Covenant Church in Orland Park was his second testimony.

“The nice thing about a testimony is it's a story about what happened in my life,” Obriecht said. “It's not about me shoving anything down anyone’s throat. A testimony is the quickest way to get to know somebody. I have put that out to all my employees. I have not received any negative reply about my relationship with Jesus Christ."

Rather then open more restaurants, Obriecht and his new wife Tara are working on helping others.

"As far as charity work, I started a program three weeks ago,” he said. “When I was saved I went around and told my testimony to all the homeless people that lived around me. One day one of the ladies named Carrie asked me to take her to church. A light bulb went off. Maybe there are others that would like this opportunity. I decided to set up a program where I hand out flyers throughout the week. Whoever shows up at the bus stop near my building, my wife and I pay for them to get on the bus. We go to church together. After church my wife and I buy them lunch and give them tickets to do laundry the following Saturday."

—By Patch contributor Mary Compton

Follow Obriecht’s blog at Justinobriecht.com.

 

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Christmas Fish September 21, 2012 at 04:54 PM
"It's not about me shoving anything down anyone’s throat." Well, good, at least he's not some bible-thumper. "A testimony is the quickest way to get to know somebody. I have put that out to all my employees." Never mind. "I have not received any negative reply about my relationship with Jesus Christ." Not in this economy, no. "'I was an atheist but I wasn't a bad person,' Obriecht said. 'I wasn't cheating, I wasn't stealing but I swore a little too much. The only difference is when you have a belief in God and you know God, he expects you to be more disciplined.'" One: If you're a self-proclaimed atheist and have visions or "feelings of warmth" associated with religious figures and don't think to check yourself into a shrink, you're doing the whole "atheism" thing wrong. And two: If you need to explain that "unlike most atheists, I wasn't actively trying to emulate Joseph Stalin in my everyday life," you're probably, again, doing it wrong. I've heard this story too many times before. I think many Americans have. It goes a little like, "I once was lost, but now am found, with merchandise to push." So, dear Patch contributors, I ask that you drop the stories on this guy until he's busted for embezzlement or outed by a male escort. Thanks.
Christmas Fish September 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Also: "Obriecht came bearing Butterburgers, custard, a few of his employees and his testimony at Hope Covenant Church in Orland Park." "Embrace Christianity™ today and advertise your over-priced artery-hardening products at minimal cost!"
Chris D. September 22, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Wow, "Christmas Fish"....pretty harsh. With a name like that, it sounds like you'd be a little more Christian than that. I really don't think Culver's needs free or cheap advertising to get by and if a young guy like that is willing to share his story and find other ways to help others in the process, I think that's great. Why drag him down like he's doing something wrong? Even if his motives were to get some advertising, he's still doing good in the process.
Joanne Buckwalter September 23, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Chris D, I agree with you Christmas Fish may have a little bah humbug. I have 3 kids that have work at Culvers and I'm proud to say that. I'm a christian to and proud to say that to and have brought up my kids that way too. I personally think Mr. Obriecht is a great person to work for. His management staff is great too. In these day and times you should have someone to pray to to geth throught these hard times. As far as being over priced everything seems over priced these day not just butter burgers so where has Mr. Christmas Fish been..
Carolyn Warren September 24, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thank you for spotlighting such a positive, hardworking and generous member of our community!

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