GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - When Paul Knaysi and his wife, Kaci, moved to Grand Junction 12 1/2 years ago, they came with a mission - to open a restaurant and set down some roots.
And their vision became Pablo's Pizza, which lives at 319 Main St. - a cozy eatery with exposed brick walls and an eclectic ambience.
"We'd never owned a restaurant before," 42-year-old Paul said, adding that they chose pizza because "everybody likes it."
They learned a lot - quickly - trial by fire, Paul said. And now, 12 years later, the restaurant still thrives on historic Main Street, with long-term employees and an inviting, family fun feel.
"We treat our employees like extended family," Paul said. "Some of them have been with us 10-plus years. It's great to watch them grow up."
The Knaysis have three children together as well - Jude, 4, Amelia, 8, and Sophia, 10.
"My kids want to work here," Paul said, laughing a little. "My oldest daughter likes to take orders, my middle girl likes to help make pizzas ,and Jude likes to make sauces. Maybe one of them will want to take it over some day."
Outside of work, Paul said he likes to find balance with lots of family time. Skiing and hiking with his wife and kids are favorite activities. Plus, yoga and gardening are top interests for Mr. and Mrs. Knaysi.
Using fresh, locally grown produce is important to their business, too, Paul noted, and he prefers to use Grand Valley's seasonal ingredients when creating his "pizza of the week" and soups.
Luckily, Grand Junction's "neat combination of urban and rural" gives Pablo's Pizza access to lots of local fruits and veggies.
"We own some land in the valley," Paul added, saying he'd like to some day grow produce to be used at Pablo's Pizza.
Before Grand Junction became home base, Paul said he's lived "literally" all over - France, Sitka (an Alaskan island), Boston and Washington state, to name a few places. He also noted that 12 1/2 years in Grand Junction is the longest he's ever lived in one place.
"I moved around a lot as a kid and as an adult, and I wanted to set down roots for myself and my family," he said. "(Grand Junction) has a great climate, a cute town and it's a good size. It's a beautiful part of the country. ... We love the community. I feel grateful that people have supported us (here)."
Paul's career has seen some variety, too - he holds a master's degree in social work and was employed in that field for a number of years. As a social worker, he helped others from all life stages, from children and the homeless, to hospitals and hospice.
Despite the change in occupation, the Pablo's Pizza owner still finds little ways to make people feel better.
"People come in, looking rushed and hungry, and I like to see ... people become blissfully full," he said. "We can make people happier with a solid meal."