Maybe Ayhan Hassan didn't do it all by himself, but certainly no Port business person is more responsible for the reinvigoration of lower Main Street than Port's beloved restaurateur. And for his untiring dedication to his adopted community, Hassan, who owns Shish-Kebab, Fish-Kebab and the Mediterranean Marketplace, will be honored by Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington at the environmental group's annual cocktail gala at the Village Club of Sands Point, Sunday, May 7.
Popular Port restaurateur Ayhan Hassan will be honoree at this year's Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington Cocktail Gala, May 7 at The Village Club.
"This honor has been such a pleasure for us, and we know Ayhan's patrons, friends and neighbors agree that he is a natural to receive this award," said Georgia DeYoung, co-chair of the gala with Nancy Wright. "Over the years, Ayhan has invested about $1 million in lower Main Street rescuing and renovating derelict buildings, and all the community has benefited."
Said Wright, "He took a neglected lot and created a landscaped and safe parking area. He restored the Neo-classical bank building that now houses Fish Kebab. He enlarged Shish-Kebab and added a beautiful storefront that glamorizes the street, and he beautified the building that is the home to the Mediterranean Market. We all have lovely places to dine and lovely places to look at. For this, we are grateful to Ayhan."
Hassan, whom almost everybody calls Ayhan, said he loves lower Main Street because the quaint buildings and nearness to the sea "reminds me of the Mediterranean. It feels like you are on vacation all the time. I take great pride in being part of the community. I also appreciate that people appreciate what I do."
Hassan has worked closely with Residents to make the area even more attractive, with the additions of flowers, shrubs and street trees to his properties. He said he was "proud to have been chosen" as this year's honoree. "I love this community; it has been very good to me and I enjoy giving back to the place I feel is home," he said. "Not only are so many residents loyal patrons, but there have been times, such as when I was expanding, that they and the public officials fully supported me. That's pretty unusual. This is a wonderful community and I am grateful for the warm reception towards each of my ventures. It is I who should be honoring you."
Hassan continued, "On the parking lot for example, we did the construction part of it, but the planning and designing of the landscaping came from Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington."
Hassan grins when told he has made Port famous internationally because so many people from Port have said that when they visit a foreign country and meet another Long Islander, the other person is likely to say, "Oh, I know Port Washington. I go to Shish-Kebab all the time."
His friends never tire of telling Hassan's story. He was born in a small village in the Turkish portion of Cyprus, grew up in the capital, Nicosia, and left at age 18, after first seeing Europe. For two years, he shipped out on cargo ships and tankers. He came to New York and worked in various restaurants for six years, starting at the lowest levels. But Hassan had greater dreams.
In 1979, he rented a building in Port Washington that had been home to several restaurants. All had failed. But Shish-Kebab was a success from the start and has been enlarged four times. He bought the building in 1982. Next came Fish-Kebab across the street, then the corner parking lot and in 1995, the Mediterranean Marketplace, a gourmet deli where one can have lunch with a view of Manhasset Bay. Recently, Hassan opened another Shish-Kebab in Plainview.
A citizen since 1982, Hassan has been good to the adopted land that has been good to him. "Now it's time for us to thank Ayhan in the best way we think possible," said Residents' founder Myron Blumenfeld. He said that because of Hassan's popularity, Residents expects a record crowd at the cocktail gala and record tributes in the gala journal.
The event is from 3 to 6 p.m. and will feature fine food and drink in a beautiful setting. For information about the gala or the Tribute Journal, call 767-9151.