PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — At a time when the pandemic is forcing many restaurants to close, on Monday one restaurant in New Jersey is celebrating its opening and its owners had a long journey to get here.
Three Syrian refugees holding onto a ribbon, just like they held onto the American dream. It is now a reality with the grand opening of their Main Street restaurant, welcoming customers inside while preparing mouth watering meals.
Co-owner Mohammad Helal shared his difficult journey to get here with CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. He fled war-torn Syria in 2011 when he was approved to come to the U.S.
“The government, the police kill everybody there. I take my family and I move to Jordan… They called me, I get the call, ‘you like to come to America?’ I say of course,” said Helal.
Helal settled with his wife and four children in Paterson in 2016 with little resources and learned English at Passaic County Community College. He worked as a food truck helper and saved money.
“All this was very hard for me, but everybody start helping me from the first day I arrived here,” said Helal.
The non-profit Global Emergency Response And Assistance and the city were there to support the business partners.
“The comments we heard from people regarding refugees is that ‘refugees are burden on our system here and they rely on welfare and they’re a threat to our national security…’ Today this store speaks for itself,” said Sikandar Khan, Paterson Senior Economic Development Representative.
Opening a restaurant is significant for these guys, but during a pandemic adds another layer of gratitude.
“It’s about 30 percent of restaurants that won’t open, according to the latest data, so that’s why were so encouraged and it warms my heart to see that these individuals are able to succeed in this country,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh.
The business partners, who have hired five people to work here, all share the same goal.
“To do better, to help me and him and him and family to stay here in the United States,” said co-owner Diya Khatib.
The place they dreamed to call home. At the soft opening of the restaurant this past weekend, they actually ran out of food. A sign the food is good and the Mayor Of Paterson, who is half Syrian, gave it his taste test approval.
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