Hala: “In Lebanon, building a small business has a lot of challenges. In the United States, there is much more opportunity. We knew that if we worked hard, we would have a better chance of living our dream by owning a small business here.
My husband, Sami, and I started out by investing in a storefront building in Federal Hill. Our plan was to collect rent from the tenants. Unfortunately, none of our tenants were able to stay in business so we decided that it was time to start our own business."
Hala: "I’ve loved cooking since I was a little girl. Sami doesn't know how to cook, but he’s a great artist. I told him, let's work together. You do the artwork and create the atmosphere and I’ll do all the cooking. Let’s run it ourselves and make it fun.”
Sami: “I have created art since I was a young boy in Lebanon. You see all the paintings and sculptures? I made them all. Our customers can buy them too. The atmosphere with the arts is important because people want to come in and feel like they are in a welcoming environment.
We like to keep it simple here. We aren’t making millions, but our business remains steady. Hala makes the food, I wait on our customers and we have a part-time worker who helps us out. That's it."
Sami: "We decided to open in Federal Hill and stay here. What we love the most about this location is that it has a friendly city vibe and there aren’t big buildings everywhere. We have had plenty of offers to open restaurants in other areas but we aren’t going to do it.
I think people can get a little bit carried away about opening another location. They say that’s how you make more money. Yeah, I don't deny that, but with every location comes headaches. Hala would have to be here. I would have to be there. It’s complicated. We prefer to stick together.
We’re not against growth, but the money alone was never our target. As long as we are paying the bills and living a happy life, that's enough. Simplicity makes a beautiful life for us. I’ve also learned that lesson through the process of making art over the years.
Success is not from you. It comes from people who appreciate you, your customers.”
Hala: “Yes, and our customers have been very great to us since the pandemic. They feel like our family. Without them, we couldn't make it. They could cook at home, but they’d rather support us. We are in a very good neighborhood. Thank God for that.”
Sami: “Yes, thank God.”
*Story made in partnership with Federal Hill Main Street & South Baltimore Gateway Partnership