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Meet Your Crystal City Concession Stand Vendor

by ARLnow.com — September 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm 3,127 39 Comments

In a tree-lined corner of Crystal City, Adel Ishak operates a small seasonal food stand, offering sandwiches, salads and smoothies to the masses of local office workers, apartment dwellers and Mt. Vernon Trail users.

If you’ve ever met Ishak, you probably know him as a hard-working guy who greets customers with an easy smile. What you probably don’t know about the guy serving you snacks and sodas is that not too long ago he was a prominent attorney in Egypt, with a large office and business before the Egyptian Supreme Court.

Ishak moved his wife and twin daughters to the United States five years ago, he says, after they started fearing for their safety. Being a Christian in Egypt, as they were, had become too dangerous, says Ishak.

“Over there, anybody can hurt you at any time,” he said.

In the U.S., Ishak has traded his large office for safety and a much different career path. When he’s not running the concession stand (in the Crystal City Water Park, across from 1750 Crystal Drive) Ishak is working as a part-time salesman for a JCPenney store in Fairfax. He could be doing more, Ishak says, but his poor English limits his job opportunities. In the coming months or years, he’s hoping to remedy that.

“I hope to study a lot,” he said.

Ishak has been gradually adding new and higher-quality items to the menu at the concession stand. Although the stand isn’t making him rich, he says business is “good” and getting better.

“I don’t worry about money, because when I work hard, money comes,” he said.

For Ishak, business is personal. The recipes for many of the menu items, like the smoothies and the fattoush salad, are customized by Ishak to meet his own personal standards. For instance, the mango smoothie contains real mango pieces, as opposed to flavored syrup. (“It’s expensive but it’s good,”  he says.)

Plus, Ishak makes a point to provide personalized service. He’ll memorize what regular customers usually order, and will offer to let customers pay him back if they left their money at home.

“I think of every customer like a friend now,” he says.

Under Ishak’s contract with the property owner, the concession stand remains open daily from April 1 to the end of October, usually from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ishak says the stand may stay open for part of November, if the weather cooperates.

In the future, Ishak says he hopes to open another store in Arlington, which he praises as being full of “good people.”

  • Thes

    Yay. More REPORTING from ArlNow today. Thanks for this. You are no mere aggregator!

    • Michelle

      As much as I talk sh*t about this website and its comments, I think many of this website’s items are independent.

    • The Dope of South Arlington

      Great, another ArlNow restaurant review.

      • South Arlington

        Great, another whiny curmudgeon.

        • charlie

          great, another complainer complaining about people complaining.

          • RosRes

            great, another commenter commenting on a complainer complaining about people complaining… this is fun!

        • The Dope of South Arlington

          (It was a joke).

          • Tabby

            I, at least, got that.

  • ClarendonDweller

    Thank you for this post. These types of reports are exactly why I come to your site on a daily basis.

  • Clarendon

    I really like this article, this is a person I would never have thought about twice if I had bought something on my hike. I find his entrepreneurial spirit admirable. I’ll make sure to visit his stand this weekend.

  • CW

    It’s awesome to run into people like this in unexpected places. People tend to think down of these service type folks, but I always like to chat them up. Especially cab drivers. I’ve run into attorneys, accountants, people who are fluent in five or six languages, all sorts of stories from all over the world.

    • SouthArlJD

      Same here. I enjoy talking to cabbies around here because so many of them are highly educated and listen to the same stations I do, NPR and C-Span. It’s a pleasure to discuss current events with someone who knows about them and it takes the sting out of the cost of cab fare.

  • Louise

    Great story. Thanks ArlNow. I encourage Ishak to consider taking ESL classes through REEP, Arlington’s Adult ESL Education Program. Their 2-night-a-week program is only $50 for 10 weeks of instruction. The new term starts in about a week: http://www.apsva.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2010

  • Lee-n-Glebe

    ““I don’t worry about money, because when I work hard, money comes,” he said.”

    I’m going to make this into an 8′ x 10′ poster and hang it outside my window.

    • Lou

      You might attract some birdies.

    • drax

      Did anyone tell him that real wages haven’t increased in this country in 30 years?

      • CW

        Yes, but I’d guess this fellow is more motivated than the average person has been over the past 30 years.

      • SomeGuy

        I think the real takeaway is that no one told him to rest on his laurels and wait for someone else to earn “American Dream” for him.

        This guy appears to be a hard worker, and I have tremendous respect for his efforts to make it on his own here in the USA.

  • Feeling Good…

    I hope I have the pleasure of meeting this gentleman one day.

    • Greg

      This may be the first time these words have ever been uttered in reference to an attorney.

  • charlie

    Arlington immigrant population is amazing. Not only for their fortitude but also for what they gave up (voluntarily or not) for the American Dream. We are a great country. thank you for this story Scott.

  • JimPB

    Why isn’t a previously unemployed American doing this?

    • charlie

      JimPB, seriously? Should it be a preference system?
      i would bet that it was a competitive bid system.

  • Me

    Wait . . . there are trees in Concrete City?

    • Crystal Dykie

      You would think that the article would say the concession stand is in the Crystal City Water Park, which is a major landmark in that part of town, yet not a word.

      • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

        Hmm, it was supposed to make reference to the water park. We’ll add that now.

    • Michael H.

      Have you ever actually walked around Crystal City?

  • info81

    Thanks for this article, I like reading this sort of thing. I will visit there and order a mango smoothie. If he is from Egypt he should start selling falafels. I always dream about the falafels at a place in tahir square , I ate many years ago. The smoothies in Cairo were always fantastic too.

    • TGEoA

      He sells the, both. Read the menu

  • Swag

    Cool story, bro.

  • Ted Williams

    Did he come here as an illegal alien?

    • Baconator

      I’m pretty sure you are joking–but I’m 99% sure he came here as a refugee (i.e., legal immigration), due to the religious persecution he mentioned. I don’t think we get many shipping containers from Egypt, and the number of people trying to swim the Mediterranean and the Atlantic is surprisingly low.

  • Jackie

    I am so glad you wrote this. I will be sure to visit his stand ASAP!!

  • JG

    I work in a building close to concession stand at the Water Park. Ishak offers the best (and cheapest) lunch deal in Crystal City! Can’t beat his hot dogs, chips and soda for $3! He is very friendly, always greets you with a smile and absolutely remembers his customers from year-after-year. And for the record, he does serve falafel.

    Thank you ARLnow for writing this article! If anyone deserves the press, it’s definitely this guy. Anyone else working in Crystal City, please give him a try!

  • MC 703

    Great story. Will definitely stop for lunch next time I am on the trail!

    Shawarma FTW

  • SDC

    Tried this today for lunch — absolutely delicious! Had the mango smoothie and chicken shwarma. While I can’t speak to the shwarma’s authenticity having never travelled to Egypt, I can say it was really flavorful, made with fresh ingredients, and a step over other similar dishes I’ve had in area restaurants. The mango smoothie was clearly made with mango rather than syrup and was refreshing, not overly sweet. It’s too bad I discovered the food at the end of the season, but look forward to mango smoothies next summer and plenty of sandwiches!! Either way, I recommend anyone in the area give this unassuming stand a try.

  • Michael H.

    Nice story. I pass by the food stand frequently when I run, walk or bike. I’ve never ordered anything from the stand, but now maybe I will.

  • Cathleen Drew

    I can attest to his mango smoothies – delicious!

  • captain kirk

    I think this is a great story on how to change your life and not just follow your dreams but create your dream. I to have a one truck vending service in Loudoun County. I have been asked by some commuters to bring my services to other areas. It is a mobile coffee shop. I do all kinds of coffee, Lattes, Frappes, Milk Shakes and Smoothies. I even deliver to offices. I also have an Web site and I am building a new one with a shopping cart. I don’t know anything about vending in Crystal City and weather this service is one that would be good in Crystal City…. Any comments.

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