Kevin and Lis Mazzu met in the air, landed in Kerrville

Kevin and Lis Mazzu, from right, owner-operators of Kerrville's three McDonalds as well as one in Fredericksburg and one in Junction, display their specially made "Kerrville Strong" window for their Sidney Baker drive-through, along with their middle daughter, Coco. They are currently hosting first responders and medical personnel for free "Thank You Meals - Thanking those who are taking care of us."

Kevin Mazzu says he and his wife Lis own a McDonald's franchise with five restaurants - the three McDonalds in Kerrville, plus one in Fredericksburg and one in Junction.

Lis Mazzu says, "Five restaurants, 30 managers, 200 employees, and our three kids keep us pretty busy."

"I was born in Minneapolis, Minn.," Kevin says. "I grew up in Bloomington, and graduated from Jefferson High School there. While I was attending the University of Minnesota, I had the opportunity to do a parachute jump, and it turned into my first job."

He says he joined the Minnesota Skydivers, a parachute exhibition team. He became a jumpmaster and an instructor, and was elected to the board of directors. "I ended up participating in more than 1,600 team jumps, all over the Midwest, like when we jumped for the Minnesota Twins home opener, and delivered the game ball. McDonalds was one of our main sponsors, so we had golden arches on our parachutes, and we jumped in on lots of restaurant openings. I worked closely with their marketing department for two years, and kept telling them I wanted a 'real job.' In 1985 they hired me, on the entry level. I arranged a lot of birthday parties."

Kevin says he worked his way up, in Minneapolis; Chicago; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Hartford, Conn.; and the "big time," Los Angeles, where he marketed in California and Hawaii. For the last four of his 19 years at corporate level, he was vice-president for marketing for the Western Division, which contained more than 4,000 restaurants. "I ended up doing a lot of flying."

Meanwhile, Lis says she was born in Los Angeles, but her family moved to Half Moon Bay in Northern California before she entered elementary school. While attending Half Moon Bay High School, she started a house-sitting business that grew to 20 employees.

"I also started flying," she says. "I earned my pilot's license when I was still 15, before I got my driver's license. I sold the house-sitting business to help finance college at Fresno State University, and while I was there I also worked as a corporate pilot for a real estate developer."

But she says when she graduated, in 1991, no one was hiring pilots with her qualifications. She decided to start her own regional airline. "I had raised $20 million in capital when ValuJet Flight 592 crashed in the Everglades, and funding for startups dried up. So I opened another house-sitting business, adding corporate concierge services, and grew to where I was operating in 35 states. I also ended up doing a lot of flying."

Kevin and Lis say it all came together on Valentine's Day, 2001.

"As usual, I arrived at the last minute," Lis says. "There was one seat left on the flight from Sacramento to L.A., and it was next to Kevin. We got to talking, and he gave me a 'BOG,' a McDonald's 'Be our Guest' card, good for a free happy meal."

"I wrote my phone number on it," Kevin says. "And she called."

They say they got engaged a year later, Valentine's Day of 2002, and married that summer. But that still left them flying all over, managing their two careers.

Kevin says, "Don Thompson, at that time the McDonalds CEO, encouraged us to combine careers, and become restaurant co-owners. So we started the McDonalds ownership process."

They say that process starts as an apprenticeship. They became registered as applicants to the program, then started working with an existing restaurant owner, working up through every position from the front counter to management. They were lucky to mentor under Kris Schulz, who owned 20 Houston restaurants. Lis sold her business, and worked full-time, while Kevin kept marketing during the day, then came to the restaurants in the evenings. Normally it's a two-year process, but given Kevin's experience with McDonalds, and Lis' small-business background, they became qualified to purchase a franchise in one year.

"Then we started looking," Kevin says. "It's like a game show. You get to see one business at a time, 'door one, door two, door three.' You have to judge each opportunity on the basis of whether you want to be there, is it a viable location, and so forth, and once you pass on door one, it's closed."

Lis says, "We looked in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and found three restaurants in California, on the eastern side of the Sierras. Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, and Lone Pine are all along a hundred-mile stretch of Hwy. 395. In 14 years we doubled the volume of business, and started our family with three daughters."

"It was high desert," Kevin says. "Two of our daughters developed allergies that forced Lis to move them lower down, so we were each driving 70,000 miles a year to keep our family together. Add to that the difficult California small-business climate, and we started looking again. We found Ronnie and Tina Young, here in the Hill Country, who wanted to retire."

Lis says, "We were so lucky. The move to Texas is the best we could have made. Kevin came to Kerrville in April, 2019, and lived in an apartment over an office building until I could finish the school year and move on July 1. Our youngest daughter, Sophia, is 11, and attends Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary. Coco, 12, and Mackenzie, 14, go to Voss Middle School. It was opened last September, named after Capt. Mark Tyler Voss, a Boerne HS graduate killed in Afghanistan, and during the ceremony there was a fly-over of F-16s. Where but Texas would that happen?"

Kevin continued, "So many people in Texas, even the high school students we hire, are dedicated, hard-working, and responsible. They still have true Midwest values, and that fits with the McDonalds family values. There's a statistic I've seen that one out of eight young Americans have worked at McDonalds."

Lis adds, "We have it so good here that now my parents, Ray and Sylvia Boone, want to move to Texas."

Kevin says when Ray Kroc started the company in 1935, his first business relationship was a handshake deal to serve Coca Cola products, which is still in force today. Kroc designed the business to be a three-legged stool, owner-operators, the McDonalds corporation, and McDonalds' suppliers. He told owners, "You're in business for yourselves, but not by yourselves."

Kevin and Lis say their employees work for them, not as McDonalds employees, so they run their own business. McDonalds Corporation does things like product development, banners, marketing, and advertising supplies, and through "Hamburger University," provides unparalleled training. Their supplies come through companies who have corporate contracts with McDonalds, some of which work only with McDonalds.

They say one of Kroc's founding principals was, "Give back to the communities in which we do business." Lis says, "That's why Joan Kroc donated the money to establish 26 Kroc Centers. We usually have our annual manager's meeting in the one here."

Kevin says, "We want to provide service, and be of service." As one example, they hold "McTeacher Nights" where his employees' teachers work the counter, as a fundraiser for the schools where they work and study.

They say they follow Kroc's ideal, "Do what's right, not what's easy."

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