Photo by Martin van den Hemel
Joe Guzzo knows the immigrant success story well.
Guzzo, his nine siblings and parents, emigrated from Italy to Canada, travelling by boat and landing in Vancouver in 1966.
About half a year later, in 1967, an American fast-food franchise made a major move of its own to the Lower Mainland, opening in the sleepy farming community of Richmond.
Guzzo had no idea how his life’s story would be shaped by the signature Golden Arches when he landed a job at the No. 3 Road location as a 15-year-old in 1975.
“This takes me back to my roots. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain. It’s part of the history of McDonald’s, the fabric of McDonald’s,” said Guzzo at the June 21 grand re-opening of the completely rebuilt restaurant on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 opening. The Richmond eatery was McDonald’s first outside the United States.
It’s in part because of his own experience as an immigrant to Canada that he has such fondness for Richmond, a mecca for multiculturalism.
“It means a lot to be a part of a multicultural community like Richmond is and represents.”
Nearly six years ago, Guzzo jumped at the opportunity, when the location on No. 3 Road, near Richmond City Hall, became available.
Guzzo told local dignitaries at the VIP opening that he recognized that the 50th anniversary of the restaurant was fast approaching, and so he and his team began the years-long planning process to rebuild the restaurant.
The new restaurant sports a modern interior
design, with the latest features, including electronic touchscreens where
customers can input their own orders, as well as electronic disks known as
table trackers so McDonald’s staff can find a dine-in guest’s table when their
food is ready.
For those who love a bit of history, a nostalgic look at the restaurant’s half-century in Richmond plays in a photo slide show on a big screen TV.
“I love being a part of Richmond. It’s a fantastic city. It’s thriving, it’s always growing.”
A job at McDonald’s remains a highly-prized resumé addition.
“There’s so much that a job like this brings,” he said. “We call them life skills. The ability to interact with people, the ability to work on a large team…being able to work with multicultural people, people from different walks of life.”
I have a lot of friends who have other businesses, and they tell me that if somebody applies with a McDonald’s resume, that they worked at McDonald’s, that they basically go to the top of the list.”
Guzzo added: “So it makes me feel really good about the type of training and the type of life skills our people get.”
During the excavation process, crews unearthed red-and-white tiles from the original McDonald’s.
A commemorative plaque, with a set of tiles, was presented to the City of Richmond, which Guzzo complemented as being great partners.
The original McDonald’s sign, which continues to adorn the front of the eatery, was declared a heritage sign thanks in large part to help from Coun. Bill McNulty, who was instrumental in the process, Guzzo said.