MARION — When Rehmat Ullah opened New York Gyro in Marion in February, business was slow for the first couple of weeks.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit Iowa, restaurants in Iowa temporarily closed to in-person dining, and suddenly he was flooded with takeout and delivery orders, boosted by praise on Facebook pages dedicated to encouraging people to order from local restaurants.
“People have supported my business,” he said. “I’m so happy right now.”
Ullah, originally from Pakistan, lived in New York City before a friend told him he should move to Iowa. He’s glad he did.
“It’s peaceful. There are peaceful people here,” he said. “New York City was very crowded. This is a really nice town, with really nice people.”
His restaurant still is only open for carryout and delivery, because the dining room is too small to offer much social distancing. His cousin Ashfaq Ahmed is the chef. With 14 years of experience working in restaurants, he said he has always enjoyed cooking.
“It’s my hobby. When I was small, I tried to learn from my mom,” he said.
When he sees someone enjoying his food, he feels gratitude, he said.
“If they give us respect and say, ‘Your food is delicious,’ we get happy,” he said. “We run our kitchen like our own home.”
They serve a wide range of food, from South Asian dishes like biryani to gyros to tacos to Philly cheesesteaks.
“We have Indian food, fast food, Mexican food — we have mixed food, all the options,” Ullah said.
They had some damage during the derecho — damage to a wall and the roof, and were closed for 10 days while the electricity was out. When the power went out, they cooked as much food as they could to save it from being thrown out and distributed boxed meals for free, said their employee Zach Perry.
He met Ullah while working as a Door Dash driver, and Ullah hired him.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” Perry said. “They have good hearts.”
Ullah said eventually he would like to open additional locations, perhaps starting in Iowa City. For now, he’s focused on seeing New York Gyro through a tumultuous first year in business.
Tumultuous, but good.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” he said.
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If you go
l What: New York Gyro
l Where: 808 Seventh Ave., Marion
l Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
l Details: (319) 200-1750, facebook.com/NewYorkGyroMarion
10:00AM | Thu, January 21, 2021
06:15AM | Thu, January 21, 2021
11:47AM | Fri, January 15, 2021