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Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 12:01 AM

McDonald's 'Large Business of the Year' award winner for 2013

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Maryann Paciullo, center, owner of Tehachapi’s two McDonald’s franchises, will be honored by the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce and the Tehachapi News on Jan. 26 with the “Large Business of the Year” award. With her are Donna Collins of the Tehachapi News, at left, and Ida Perkins of the chamber at right. Photo by Jackie Wood

As far as big businesses go, McDonald's is certainly high up on the list, with more than 34,000 stores in 119 countries, and 1.8 million employees worldwide. But in the hands of local franchise owner Maryann Paciullo, McDonald's is more like a community-minded small business.

Paciullo is the franchise owner for both McDonald's restaurants in Tehachapi, and has been awarded the "Large Business of the Year" award from the Chamber of Commerce and Tehachapi News for 2012.

The award will be presented on Jan. 26 during the chamber's annual installation and awards dinner to be held at Villa La Paz at the National Chavez Center in Keene. Tickets are now on sale and RSVPs are due by Jan. 18. Details on page 4.

The reason for the choice is clear: "In my heart, and in my business mind," said Paciullo, "I believe it's important to give back to the community." Helping communities and giving back is part of the McDonald's corporate culture, she added.

And give back she does. Wherever there are extracurricular sports events, such as AYSO soccer and TVRPD basketball, a big yellow McDonald's lemonade jug is likely to be found. The popular McTeachers night gives 20 percent of dinner sales to the local schools, amounting to over $40,000 so far. Gift certificates are offered at various non-profit functions. An e-waste collection is slated for Jan. 19 to help raise money for Ronald McDonald house in Bakersfield, where parents can stay while their children are being treated at the hospital nearby.

"It touches my heart that I've been so welcomed in Tehachapi," she said, adding that she appreciates the support given back from the community over the years.

Paciullo moved here 18 years ago to open the first McDonald's at Tucker and Valley Blvd.

"I appreciate the way Tehachapi welcomed me and my children," she said.

Paciullo and her McDonald's franchise have won numerous company awards, including Manager of the Year in 1997. Her daughter Maureen Recalde won the Voice of McDonald's singing competition for the United States recently, and was a finalist worldwide.

Originally from Bayonne, N.J., Paciullo began working at McDonald's as a teenager. Although she earned a degree in Sports Administration from St. John's University in New York, she has worked for McDonald's for the last 37 years. When she married a Californian, she moved to the San Fernando Valley where she became a McDonald's manager.

In 1994, after becoming divorced, she was offered the opportunity to own a franchise when the company wanted to open a store in Tehachapi. She moved up here with her three children and the family never looked back.

"This was the best situation I could have been in," she said. Her children were active in school activities, and by taking the early shifts, she could be home with them in the afternoon. All three worked in the restaurant as teenagers, and her two daughters, Maureen and Marie, have returned to work with her after college in Santa Barbara. Her son, also a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, is now back in Tehachapi working at Pacino's.

The family also owns and operates the McDonald's in the Love's travel center. While McDonald's is usually found in Wal-Mart stores, the company declined the offer for the proposed Tehachapi location, said Paciullo. It was deemed to be too close to the existing store on Valley Blvd.

For Paciullo, the most important way McDonald's gives back is by providing jobs and training for young people. The two restaurants have about 100 employees between them, she said, and they are all from the local area. She estimated that nearly 3,000 16-18-year-olds have worked for her in all. For most of them, it was their first job. "They come back to thank us for giving them the opportunity to work at McDonalds," she said, adding that one in ten Americans have worked at McDonald's at some point in their lives.

Paciullo said that a major remodel is planned for the Valley Blvd. McDonald's. The play area will have a new concept, making it more open and activity-centered so parents can better see their children at all times. Both exterior and interior will have a new look, and there will be a double drive-through.

Paciullo said she is proud of what she has accomplished here, and gives much of the credit to the hard work and dedication of her staff. She that she is happy with her success, but particularly likes "bringing as many people along with me as possible"

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