ALBANY PARK — George Mounsef brought thin, Lebanese-style pitas to Chicago from his native Lebanon. He and his brothers even had custom-made ovens imported from their homeland.
But now, after almost 40 years of running Al-Khyam Bakery and Grocery at 4744 N. Kedzie Ave., the man billed as “The Original Pita King” said it’s time to retire. He’s planning on selling the name, bakery and grocery.
“I worked very hard, and now I’m 65, going on 66,” he said. “Working, working, working. You kill yourself.”
The grocery store is not currently open to the public. It closed in September for renovations. Its recognizable green awnings are down, leaving behind old signs from years past. But pita deliveries are still being shipped out on a regular basis to grocery stores and restaurants across the city.
“I have my business for sale because I’m retiring,” Mounsef said. “The grocery store is undergoing some remodeling but the bakery is still in operation.”
Mounsef said he’s fielding requests of people who are interested in taking the business over. Because he built up the brand, he’s aiming to sell the bakery to someone who keeps the Al-Khyam name.
Back in 1980, Mounsef opened Al-Khyam and brought the Lebanese pita to Chicago, which is thinner than other types of pitas. He imported the ovens and related equipment to make the pitas, which require a cooking temperature of 500 degrees, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Looking back, Mounsef said he is proud of the long hours he put in at the bakery, long hours that helped secure his children’s future. And he’s glad his kids didn’t follow in his footsteps, but instead used their education to become professionals in other industries.
“They’ve got their degrees and education now. And now it’s time for me to retire,” he said.
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