For nearly 40 years, nighttime carousers ambling out of bars and nightclubs in New York City’s famous West Village neighborhood have had a stalwart option for their post-cocktail snack attacks. Founded in 1971 by Syrian immigrant Mamoun Chater, Mamoun’s Falafel has achieved almost cult status as it churned out Middle Eastern fare from its 200-square-foot shop for daytime shoppers, tourists, students on a budget and late-night party-goers. Now the operation is in the fourth year of its play to branch out through franchising, and has 10 shops up and running, with more on the way.
The story of Mamoun’s is a typical immigrant tale of family and hard work, says the founder’s youngest son Hussam Chater, a former lawyer who is a part owner and acts as the brand’s CEO. Chater’s three brothers—Nedal, Galal and Kinan—are equal part-owners and, because they are older, have greater clout within the organization. “I’m the CEO because of my skill set, but for all intents and purposes my brothers are my boss.”
The original Mamoun arrived from Damascus on U.S. soil in the late 1960s. “He was very poor,” says Chater. “He started the business after working all of these different odd jobs.”
Mamoun’s work ethic was considerable, and it was not unheard of for him to work all night and on into the lunch shift the following day. Over the years the restaurant gained a reputation as a great place for late-night eats, as Mamoun’s would sometimes stay open until 5 a.m. if there were customers to be served.
The shop was known to have celebrity sightings due its close proximity to hip music and comedy clubs, though the family remains mum about which celebs have graced their doorway. “We never called out musicians or actors because they like us to be low-key about it,” says Chater.