I remember years ago watching a news segment about a journalist who would pick a random name out of a phone book, call them up and ask if he could write a story about their life.
"Everyone has a story, you just have to find out what it is," he said.
As a print journalist, I live by this idea.
Everyone, indeed, has a story. Even, for example, the man serving you french fries from behind the counter of McDonald's.
As a ranging reporter in Jackson County, I've known Javier Alicea, manager of the Edna McDonalds, for more than two years.
He chats with me sometimes, when I'm asking Question of the Day, or offers up his employees when I'm in need of assistance on a story.
But until Monday, I never knew how fascinating this 29-year-old McDonald's manager actually is -- or how business savvy.
Before Alicea turns 35, he will likely be an official owner of three South Texas McDonald's restaurants.
With no college, or high school diploma, Alicea is blazing a trail in business, doing so with a ninth-grade education and the wisdom passed down from his father, Ernesto.
Which brings me to the second most fascinating part of this story.
Ernesto Alicea, 52, the current owner of the three McDonald's franchises his son currently manages, started working for McDonald's more than 30 years ago.
A new father then, and in desperate need of a job, Ernesto took a job as a closer at a Long Island McDonald's in New York.
"He scrubbed the floors, he cleaned up, he did whatever they needed him to do before closing," Alicea said, about his father. "He was probably earning back then, about $2 an hour."
A month later, Ernesto was elevated to shift leader.
Shocked by his father's expedient ascend to shift leader from floor-scrubber, I told Alicea, "It sounds like he was a really good worker to be promoted so quickly."
His response: "He owns three McDonald's now. What do you think?"
Ernesto stayed in the McDonald's business for many years, managing stores in New York, his native Puerto Rico, and again in Miami, Fla., before buying a franchise himself and becoming an owner-operator.
That's when Javier first started working with his father. "I promised myself then I'd never work at McDonald's when I got older, and here I am," Javier said, laughing. "But you get older, and you have responsibilities and kids to feed."
The Aliceas moved to Texas eight years ago, when Ernesto was offered a chance to buy a few franchises in San Antonio that were going out of business at a discounted rate.
After reviving the stores, the family moved to Edna to purchase a few more locations in El Campo, Port Lavaca and Edna.
Javier oversees the Edna restaurant full time and he said he enjoys knowing his passion for business is being put to good use.
"I was born to be in business. I come humbly, but I come with many blessings," he said.
And when the time comes, his father will hand down ownership of the restaurant, and that day comes soon.
Because Ernesto has already been reviewed and approved by McDonald's Corporation to own a franchise, Javier said the process for his approval will be much simpler.
"My father said when he was younger, he could never see the light at the end of the tunnel, but now he can see his son taking over. Now he can see the light," Javier said.
Javier wants owning his first McDonald's to be a stepping stone to something greater. He hopes to manage and own an even bigger business one day.
As it turns out, the Edna McDonald's store manger with a ninth grade education, turns out to be pretty brilliant.
He also has some severe singing and songwriting chops. He offered me a copy of his demo earlier today, including an amazing track "You Want It." Check it out!
Go by the McDonald's sometime and say hello to one of the Crossroads' most driven under-30 managers. He may just let you listen to one his killer new vocal tracks!
And come by and see me next Monday at the Edna McDonald's and share your story with me. See you then!
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