Tony Nesheiwat, 27, co-owner of Times Square Deli, said his relationship with customers goes beyond knowing what they like to eat on a sandwich.
This week marks the five-year anniversary of the deli and mini-mart, located just across from UNM on Central Avenue, and Nesheiwat said the deli will be around for much longer.
Nesheiwat said his parents emigrated in the ‘70s from Jordan to New York City, where they owned a number of restaurants. They relocated to Albuquerque in 2006, and the restaurants they opened here offer the same New York-style deli and Middle Eastern fare as those back east. In addition to Times Square Deli, the family owns Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery, which is also on Central Avenue. The family’s success allowed them to open satellite locations for both restaurants in the SUB.
Nesheiwat said many of his customers are like extended family to him.
“We know people on a personal level, we know people’s families, people’s backgrounds. They talk to us like we’re family,” he said. “We have the same people here five days a week, at least.”
Nesheiwat said his family still owns Robbie’s, a chain of delis in New York, but decided to move to New Mexico for a change of pace.
“It was very hectic, it was getting too expensive. I got used to that way of life,” he said. “But there was too much traffic, prices were just going up like crazy and our sandwich prices were staying the same, so we couldn’t make money that way,” he said.
Nesheiwat said his family chose the University area because of the heavy foot traffic from nearly 30,000 people traversing the areas between UNM, CNM and UNMH every day. But he said for his family, it’s not just about the money.
“The money is the last thing we’re worried about right now, we care about how we treat people more than the money they’re handing us,” he said.
While his family tried to stay as true to their New York recipes as possible, they did add a few New Mexican touches to the menu.
“We changed the names of some sandwiches to fit UNM,” he said. “We have the University Special, we have the Lobo Burger Special, plus we added green chile to our menu, which people like around here.”
Nesheiwat said he enjoys working with customers and helping people, but that he has goals separate from the family business.
He said that in the future he plans to attend medical school at UNM while continuing to help out at the restaurants.