From ‘Crew Kid’ to Restaurant Owner, Paul Dias’ Best Job is ‘Dad’
By Romi Carrell Wittman
Paul Dias is more comfortable watching football than being in the spotlight. Back in 2020, before the pandemic, Dias’ wife, Nelie, scheduled a dinner out with friends on the night the San Francisco 49ers were playing the Arizona Cardinals, he was a bit perturbed.
“We were out on the patio and I couldn’t watch the game,” said Dias. He’d resigned himself to only catching glimpses of the game on the distant television in the bar. He was surprised when he saw his youngest daughter, Lindsey, approaching the table carrying balloons and flowers. He assumed she was at the restaurant for a friend’s birthday. When he was told he’d been named a Father of the Year, he was speechless.
“Once that happened, the game wasn’t important anymore,” said Dias, laughing.
He was immediately humbled by the honor. “It was very rewarding, too,” he said. “We have a successful business, but outside of that, awards aren’t my thing. I try to give them to my employees and the people around me to give them the praise they deserve. But as for me, I’m a little uncomfortable with it, with recognition. But I am very grateful for this one.”
Dias has spent his life building a very successful business. Today, as president and owner of Dias Management, he manages 22 McDonald’s franchises across Southern Arizona.
Born in Portugal, Dias immigrated to the U.S. with his parents as a toddler. His family settled in California and, later, he met his wife, Nelie, at Turlock High School in California’s Central Valley. Around the same time, he got his first – and, as it turns out, only – job at McDonald’s. He began as what he calls a “crew kid” and worked his way up into management.
The restaurant’s owner, Dennis Graspointner, became a mentor of sorts to Dias, and Dias helped Graspointner expand from one McDonald’s restaurant to 15. “He was like a second father to me,” he said. “My parents taught me my values, my morals, my Catholic upbringing and my work ethic, but they had immigrated to a country where they didn’t know the language and didn’t know the ins and outs of running a business. That’s where Dennis filled in.” Dias turned to Graspointner to learn about life’s biggest decisions – buying a house, getting married, starting a family.
In 2003, after working for Graspointner for 15 years, Dias told his boss he was ready for the next stage of his career – owning his own McDonald’s franchise. Dias moved his young family, which now included the couple’s two daughters, Megan and Lindsey, to Alamosa, Colo. It was a very remote part of the state, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of Dias’ life.
Dias got the restaurant on its feet financially and, in 2007, had the chance to purchase five McDonald’s restaurants in the Tucson area.
Dias said he owes his business success to his wife’s support. “While I was busy building the business, she was at home being the mom, dad, CEO, CFO and COO of the house,” he said. “We made a great team. She deserves more credit because I couldn’t be the father or businessperson I am without her support.”
Dias is especially proud of his daughters’ achievements. Megan, 24, graduated from the University of San Francisco with a business degree and a minor in legal studies. She’s currently working for a large marketing agency in the Bay Area. Lindsey, 20, is currently a sophomore at Texas Christian University.
“Megan is the first person in the family to graduate from college,” Dias said. “We are so proud.”
Dias said he believes the Father of the Year honor is a message from God. “Perhaps God is giving me a pat on the back,” he said with a gentle, appreciative laugh. “It’s the one role, the one job that you’re really chosen for and one in which you don’t have a whole lot of say.”
He said he’s thoroughly enjoyed the challenges that have come with fatherhood. “Being a father is fundamentally the most important role I have on earth. The father I am today is not the father I was when I started,” he said. “This recognition is very special to me because I value that role so much. It’s the coolest job in the world and it’s a role that never ends.”
Pictured above from left – Lindsey, Paul, Nelie and Megan Dias