ALBANY — When George Suarez started his first part-time job at a New York City-area McDonald’s restaurant at age 15, he took some sage advice from his sister, Angela.

“My sister, Angie, she taught me the value of saving money,” Suarez, a native of Ecuador, said. “That has stuck with me all of my life up to today.”

Of course, when George told Angela after a period of working his way “up the corporate ladder” at the restaurant his plans to own his own McDonald’s, his sister wasn’t exactly on board.

“She told me I was crazy,” Suarez said. “But I argued that the only way you’re in control of your own fate is if you own the business. I’m a firm believer that that’s the way you become successful.”

Neither big sis Angela nor anyone else who knows George Suarez can argue that he’s proven his business mettle by basing his approach on the values and work ethic that made him a rising star within the McDonald’s corporate structure.

Now, some two decades-plus after taking on that first job, Suarez owns not one, not two, not a dozen, but 13 south Georgia McDonald’s restaurants, including all five in Albany, a testament to what he calls a “holistic” approach to business.

“Sure, I’m the owner, but I’m just a regular guy,” Suarez said. “I’m a firm believer in getting involved in the communities where I do business, and I am always looking for dreamers like me who are willing to work their way up. I try to be the kind of person like those who gave me a chance.”

Because of his community involvement, Suarez said he decided to offer coupons for a free McDonald’s combo meal to any citizen who came to his 2615 Dawson Road restaurant two weeks ago to get a COVID-19 vaccination. He’ll do the same on Tuesday for the 35 who return for a second shot or others who come to the restaurant for a vaccination.

“Everywhere I do business, I get involved with the chamber of commerce in that community,” he said. “I have initiatives like ‘Coffee With a Cop’ ... do things like that so people in the community can see a friendly face. When I pay my taxes, I also hand-deliver the payment because I want people to know I’m someone they can relate to.

“(McDonald’s franchise owners) are given the freedom to do things like this for their communities, and I see it as an opportunity to represent myself and my business. I think it’s important to bring awareness to the community about getting the vaccinations. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The vaccines will be administered through a joint effort with CORE from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday.

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