HACKENSACK, N.J. — It's Sunday morning and there's no foreseeable end to the line at The Bagel Shoppe in Hackensack.
The Passaic Street eatery's owner Sam Ayyad says they're here for the coffee or the mini-bagels.
But his staff says the customers are likely here for Ayyad himself.
"He knows everyone by name," said shop employee Karam Sallam, 22. "Their cars pull up and he has us start making their orders."
"I love coming to work," employee KC Carreras of Lodi added. "Sam is a great boss. But when we have to get things done, we get things done."
Ayyad moved to Clifton from the Middle East in 1989 and began working as an engineer.
In 2002, he purchased The Bagel Shoppe.
Ayyad had worked in the food industry as a student and was happy to return as his own boss.
The many minor tweaks he made at The Bagel Shoppe made a major difference.
"I kept the formula for the bagels," said Ayyad, who runs the shop with help from his wife and kids. "That was good."
But he redid the tiling in the front of the store and added new menu items.
The mini bagels and freshly-brewed Colombian roasts in almost every flavor, Ayyad said, keep customers coming back for more.
It's clear Ayyad enjoys taking care of his community.
"I'm always involved with local activities," he said from the back of the store, where he keeps several boxes overflowing with framed certificates of sponsorship opportunities.
Ayyad and The Bagel Shoppe have sponsored local sports teams, school events and dozens of town races — most recently the Maywood 5K.
But it's not just money that goes to a good cause — it's the bagels, too.
"He's never thrown away a single bagel," Kallam told Daily Voice.
At the end of every day, a representative from a different local organization — a shelter, pantry or church — arrives at The Bagel Shoppe. Ayyad sends them back with the day's leftovers, free of charge.
"He doesn't like wasting them," Kallam said. "He'd rather give the bagels to someone who needs them than throw them away."
Ayyad said he came to the U.S. looking for the American Dream. He says he's gotten that — and much more.
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