GREENBELT – Abdul Karim Kmaiha knows firsthand that dreams can come true in the midst of challenging situations. For nearly nine years, the hard-working Rockville resident has operated the New Deal Cafe, located at 113 Centerway in Greenbelt’s Roosevelt Center. His wife, Maria Almeida, makes desserts alongside the Lebanese chef as they strive to create […]
GREENBELT – Abdul Karim Kmaiha knows firsthand that dreams can come true in the midst of challenging situations.
For nearly nine years, the hard-working Rockville resident has operated the New Deal Cafe, located at 113 Centerway in Greenbelt’s Roosevelt Center. His wife, Maria Almeida, makes desserts alongside the Lebanese chef as they strive to create a community atmosphere.
Kmaiha invested in the café, which was close to bankruptcy, and said he built a kitchen in the café, which was once not equipped with one. With the exception of his day off, customers are accustomed to finding him there from 9:30 a.m. until closing time, but that soon will change.
Kmaiha is a contractor whose lease will not be renewed. The New Deal Cafe is owned by a cooperative membership cooperation (Greenbelt co-op), who elected to use the establishment for live entertainment.
But winning a $50,000 Maryland Lottery scratch-off ticket that was purchased next door at Center Way Mini Mart a little more than three weeks ago will enable Kmaiha and Almeida to get a new start and open their own Lebanese restaurant.
While dealing with an uncertain culinary career, Kmaiha decided to play the Maryland Lottery. The Maryland Lottery reported that he first won $5 after purchasing a Neon x10 scratch-off ticket. Kmaiha explained that he was initially too busy to cash the ticket after buying it on a Sunday. Since he does not work on Mondays, he returned the following Tuesday to buy another one. The second time he played the $5 game, he won $50. And on the same day, Kmaiha won the $50,000 top prize after feeling like he should play a third time.
“After (I won) I came to work normal, but the first thing I did was I called my wife. My wife, she did not believe it,” Kmaiha said with a smile and laugh. “My wife, she is more excited than me.”
The couple hopes to put the winnings to good use by investing in their own restaurant where they plan to continue serving Lebanese food. Family, including Kmaiha’s sister-in-law, will continue working as employees.
Kmaiha said he has liked to cook since he was young and his background in the food business began in 1974 in Lebanon where he attended culinary school. Now, Kmaiha is ready to invest in a new venture with his wife of 15 years.
“We want to move it because we are here, but they (are) not renewing the contract after all this that we do here, and we’re looking for another location to open – my own, not leasing from anybody,” Kmaiha said. “I had my own (restaurant) before in my country, and I worked with the diplomat people for 16 years as a private chef. And I worked at the Lebanese place here for six years like a chef, and I decided to work by myself.”
Almeida, who is very excited about her husband’s unexpected prize, said this time she may have been wrong about her husband “wasting money” by playing the lottery. She also said she was shocked that their contract was not renewed at New Deal Cafe.
“He is very serious about his work and about serving customers. Most of the customers coming to our place of work are very appreciative of him and what we do. His work speaks for itself,” Almeida said, elaborating on their future plans. “(The money) will help us a great deal, even after taxes (are taken out). (Kmaiha) only got $33,000, but hey, $33,000 was better than what we had before, right? So it will help us a great deal, with some savings we had, to try to relocate to another place.”
Kmaiha’s equipment will soon be moved to storage when his time working at the New Deal Cafe ends at the end of the month. However, Kmaiha said he and his team will return to serve customers who support and like them.
As soon as he finds a new location to open his own restaurant in the area, Kmaiha is ready to explore a new opportunity. Whether it was good luck or destiny, Kmaiha’s journey seemingly ended on a positive note.
“Everything (is) possible,” Kmaiha said.