Once moguls of commerce in their native country thousands of miles away, when Waleed Awad and Raafat Tawfik moved to the United States years ago they came with hopes of creating a new kingdom here built on the good ‘ol staples of American fast food – wings and pizza.
Originally hailing from Egypt, Awad and Tawfik came to America with extensive backgrounds in business, but actually met while working menial jobs at various restaurants in Hoboken.
They eventually teamed up to open their own place which premiered in Weehawken just a few months ago.
King of Wings and Pizza, located in the Shades section of town just steps away from the busy entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, has now become a staple of its own for residents in the community.
“The food is amazing,” said Luke, who lives in Hoboken and works along the nearby Weehawken waterfront, on a recent busy lunch hour in the shop. “The staff is always so friendly.”
“To have success you have to do anything; money is not everything, experience is number one.” – Waleed Awad
“It’s almost the best kept secret in the food business,” he said. “But not for long.”
From paperbacks to pizza
Waleed Awad was only 16 years old when he opened his first business, a book store in one of the empty storefronts owned by his father.
Awad took advantage of his fathers’ encouragement to “do whatever you like” with the location and ultimately wound up opening three more stores in Egypt prior to moving to Bayonne with his family five years ago.
Raafat Tawfik took on his first job by selling computers at 15 years old and had gained extensive experience in the business world by the time he moved to Bayonne 10 years ago.
Despite their prior experience, both Awad and Tawfik decided to start from the ground up when they moved to the States.
“To have success you have to do anything,” said Awad. “Money is not everything, experience is number one.”
Tawfik agreed, adding, “When you have an idea in your head, you have to take it step by step.”
And so they did. Each took on jobs in Hoboken’s bustling restaurant industry, where they met and decided to learn the business from the ground up so they could one day open a food establishment of their own.
But with their business backgrounds and experience in some of Hoboken’s most diverse eateries, why did they decide on wings and pizza?
Because it offers something for everyone, said Awad, even in this tough economy. And, he added, it doesn’t hurt to be selling some of the most popular game-time foods during the various sports seasons.
Hopes of franchise The Weehawken location of King of Wings has been open for approximately five months now and, according to the owners, has been doing very well since day one. So well, in fact, that they’re planning on opening another location in downtown Jersey City within a few months.
The ultimate goal is to turn King of Wings into a regional, perhaps even national, franchise.
After Jersey City they’re setting their sights on other locations in Hudson County and New York City if possible, and beyond that they envision opening in Pennsylvania and Boston.
Though they fashion themselves in suits and are already thinking of how to take their business to the next level, both Awad and Tawfik don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get behind the counter when business calls.
The shop buzzes with customers seven days a week and stays open until midnight on the weekends.
“We know when we’re working hard [the business] is going to get better,” said Tawfik. “And that makes everyone happy.”
The effort to make others happy has extended to their philanthropic efforts as well. After only a few months in business, King of Wings has already donated food for several local organizations and events.
Hard workers that they are, the effects of long hours and manual labor have not been lost on the families of Awad and Tawfik.
Awad’s wife went on vacation to Egypt for four months when the business first opened to stay out of the fray. And Tawfik and his wife recently welcomed a new baby to their lives which has made the transition to American entrepreneur scary, he said, but he’s proud that his family is confident in his ability to succeed.
Though their efforts are fully supported by their families, Awad said he does still have one special request amidst all of the business frenzy these days.
“I want to eat some food from my wife,” he said with a chuckle. “When I opened this store, she stopped cooking.”
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at email@example.com.