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August 27, 2010 > Forward to the past

Forward to the past

By William Marshak

Starting today, McDonald's golden arches will reign supreme at Grimmer Boulevard and Bay Street in Fremont. After almost six months of reconstruction, a "modern" McDonald's will re-open at 11 a.m. Ronald McDonald and city dignitaries will be present for a flag-raising and ribbon-cutting ceremony. A carnival of bounce houses, face-painting and a myriad of activities will fill the parking lot during the afternoon. The "retro" look of the new restaurant designated as an "Anniversary Building" by McDonalds required special permission according to Owner Mark Bernardin.

Corporate executives at McDonald's agreed to this unique design located only in a few special locations, in honor of Mark's dad, Al Bernardin who passed away last year, and the family's 50 year history with the company. Al rose through McDonald's corporate ranks and was instrumental in the development of a variety of food products. Moving to Fremont in 1970 as a local franchise owner, he created and introduced the Quarter Pounder sandwich in 1971 at this location. Known as a philanthropist and champion of hospice services, the annual holiday Trees of Angels in support Pathways Hospice can also attributed to this entrepreneur. Each holiday season, the McDonald's Mission District location erects a distinctive tree of lights and hosts a special holiday program in support of the hospice organization.

When asked about the distinctive retro look chosen, Mark says, "I love the look; the arches add a historical perspective to this location." Although the building footprint is about the same as the previous structure, a basement used for storage is now absent and city mandated "bioswales" have significantly reduced the parking area; the drive-through lane has been retained. The new look has attracted a lot of attention and excitement. Mark says he has been repeatedly asked about an opening date by people eager to visit.

Amid a flurry of activity within and outside the new facility, Mark and Gaby Bernardin direct contractors to add finishing touches. "Each operator chooses their own interior package," says Mark. Gaby has been responsible for creating the interior design, choosing unique decor to complement the striking exterior. McDonald's encourages each franchise to develop a singular style and Mark notes all three of his restaurants - Grimmer, Mission and Fremont Boulevard - have a different look. "Customers develop a relationship with each store; each has its own character."

Through careful planning, when it closed, Grimmer Ave. McDonald's employees were absorbed by existing Bernardin franchise locations. "Our goal was to retain all of our employees," says Mark. Although a few veterans are returning to the new store, an added bonus of the re-opening is the addition of 45 new jobs to the local economy. Mark notes, "I am blessed and lucky to be a part of this. Support by the community has been extraordinary."

Although Al Bernardin may not be physically present as the doors open, his spirit will certainly be close by, brimming with pride. His legacy of community involvement and support is remembered by many and continues as Mark and Gaby honor his commitment.

The golden arches are back!

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