By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
Business at an Abilene restaurant has decreased about 40 percent since Sept. 11, and its owners claim the drop may be related to their Muslim beliefs.
Brothers Alex and Hasi Mehmedi, who own Joe’s Italian Grill at 3905 S. 1st St., say business dropped sharply immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has been down ever since.
Alex, who along with his brother hails from Albania, said Joe’s was bringing in about $12,000 per week before the attacks, and that number has dropped to about $7,000 since.
He said the owners’ religion shouldn’t determine whether a person eats at his restaurant or not.
“I don’t think that’s fair. We never did anything,” Alex said. “People figure, ‘They’re Muslim; they support [terrorism].'”
While many businesses and restaurants nationwide suffered drops in sales immediately following Sept. 11, the National Restaurant Association reported a December 2001 sales total that surpassed even pre-attack amounts.
Restaurant neighbors of Joe’s all report steady or only slightly decreased sales since the attacks.
“We still do the same business, after and before,” said Jack Kaikratok, manager of China Star at 3601 S. 1st St.. “Maybe a 5 percent loss, that’s it. You can’t tell.”
Phillip Hill, manager of El Fenix Mexican restaurant at 3241 S. 1st St., said sales were steady after the initial drop immediately following the attacks.
“We haven’t noticed it at all,” Hill said. “Maybe the first two days, but it hasn’t affected us.”
Joe’s employee Anabelle Gardeea said that in the four years she has worked at Joe’s, the restaurant has never fallen on hard times.
“I know business is still good,” Gardeea said. “If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be working here.”
Alex said he has heard Joe’s customers discussing the owners’ nationality, and their religion often comes up. He said the perceived prejudice of the brothers because of their Muslim faith after Sept. 11 is unjustified.
“I love this country more than I love [Albania],” Alex said. “We would do anything for this country. [The attacks] didn’t make us feel good at all.”
The Mehmedi brothers, whose father’s windshield was broken in Dallas because he is a Muslim, said the prices and food have remained the same since before Sept. 11, and that they don’t want the actions of extreme Muslims to hurt their business.
“Don’t judge us for who we are, judge us for our food,” Alex said. “Religion has nothing to do with that. We love our customers; we serve our customers. In this restaurant they get treated like kings.”