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One on One with Anas “Andy” Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets


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 Anas Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, photo by Alexis Goring

Anas Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, photo by Alexis Goring

Published on: Thursday, October 31, 2013

By Alexis Goring, Special to The Sentinel

Anas “Andy” Shallal is an artist,activist, entrepreneur and owner of a group of trendy, popular restaurants called Busboys and Poets which he founded in 2005. Today, the restaurant has locations in Northwest D.C., Virginia and Hyattsville, Md.  Sentinel lifestyle reporter Alexis Goring met with Shallal at his Hyattsville location to talk one on one about his passion for food, people and politics.

Have you always wanted to be a restaurant owner?

I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be a restaurant owner. Probably somewhere in the back of my mind I did but it wasn’t the career that I set out to be. I set out to be a doctor…I majored in pre-med and then I worked for the NIH. I tried medical school for a semester. I was at Howard and I ended up leaving Howard and going on to trying to find what I really love to do and started waiting tables and loved it. I loved the service element, I loved the food. I loved being around people being happy, when they are fed. Everybody loves to eat and everybody loves to be taken care of …I just enjoyed the service of the restaurant business.

You are a very accomplished and influential man. So tell me, why did you choose to open Busboys & Poets in the locations of D.C./MD/VA?

Well, I love D.C. …D.C. people are smart. They love books. They care about politics and issues that affect them so that was a great thing because I like that too. I want to find a place that I would want to go to…Most people want to go into the restaurant business because they want to do something that they think they can do better than anybody else.

What does Busboys and Poets do better than anybody else?

We create community better than anybody else. We are really the place that I think everyone would agree has been able to create that represents part of the entire city.

 

I think it’s commendable that you use Black American literary authors as “springboards”. Tell me more about what that means to you, why you do it and how it has helped your business.

I think people can make associations through these types of figures. Oftentimes people get a certain feeling when they walk into a place and that feeling is a combination of things: It’s the art, it’s the literature, it’s the name of the place. It’s the way the furniture is laid out, it’s the menu of course—what you’re serving on the menu, the prices—all of these things I think send signals to a person who’s walking through the door to say, “Do they want me here? Or do they not want me here?” So I want to make sure that all the signals we’re putting together are signals that indicate what we are about—we are a literary place, we are political, we’re artistic, we’re cultural.

You’ve told the press you “believe in people and human capital can move mountains”. What does that mean to you and your focus as a business man?

As a society, as a city, we have rendered certain people “disposable” and we just keep them at one level. We just throw little crumbs to them and hope they will not have an uprising. And so to me, that’s a very short-sighted and bankrupt way of seeing human beings. I think if we are to really be great as a city, we need everybody to be able to help lift everyone else. People do not want to feel disposable. They want to feel like they’re part of a big picture. They want to feel they are contributing to their community, to society, to their children, to their schools and often times I think we make assumptions of certain groups of people…I think if you can empower people and give people a chance of hope, a sense of possibility that transcends them out of their condition, I think people can do amazing things.

More on Alexis Goring's interview with Andy Shallal in next week's Prince George's Sentinel newspaper.

 

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