Amiel Mokhiber Sr. had a remarkable journey from his youth as the son of immigrants to achieving his dream of becoming a millionaire by middle age. However, the measure of his success was not just in monetary terms; it lay in his ability to provide for his family and make a lasting impact on his community.
Born on June 2, 1929, in Niagara Falls, New York, Amiel Mokhiber Sr. was raised by parents who had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon and Syria. His family founded the Niagara Fruit Co., a wholesale fruit and vegetable business, where he learned the art of selling and the importance of presentation during his teenage years. His early experiences taught him that “selling the sizzle” was just as vital as the product itself.
After graduating from Albany High School and working in the family business, Amiel Mokhiber Sr. moved to Rochester, where he embarked on a career in finance, selling bonds and mutual funds. However, a bear market left him not only financially broken but also in debt, owing $40,000.
Determined to turn his fortunes around, he sought his father’s guidance. Despite considering returning to his old job, his father encouraged him to persevere and find success in Rochester. During his drive back to the city, he had a revelation: “Submarine sandwiches!” The idea of opening a sandwich shop took root.
With limited resources, Amiel Mokhiber Sr. located a vacant building on West Main Street, convinced the building owner to offer the first six months rent-free, and set out to start his own business. His hard work and tenacity paid off, as customers began flocking to his sandwich shop from day one. Amiel Mokhiber Sr. often worked long hours and even slept on a cot in the shop.
As the business thrived, he expanded, opening multiple restaurants throughout the Rochester area. By the mid-1970s, there were around two dozen Amiel’s shops, and the company’s roast beef sandwiches and other specialties had made their way into area Big N stores. Amiel’s even ventured into international markets with a location in London’s Piccadilly Circus.
Amiel Mokhiber Sr. was known not only for his business acumen but also for his engaging personality. He had a knack for connecting with customers, taking time to chat with them, inquire about their experience, and make them feel valued.
Despite his outward success, Amiel Mokhiber Sr. remained deeply committed to his family and community. His home in Pittsford was not just a symbol of affluence; it was a haven for family members in need and individuals starting anew. He extended his generosity to charitable causes and fundraisers, never turning down a request for support.
Amiel Mokhiber Sr. faced his share of challenges, including setbacks in business and health issues. The bankruptcy of Neisner’s, a retail chain that carried Amiel’s products, in 1977 dealt a blow to the Amiel’s chain. Nevertheless, he persevered, and his legacy lived on.
Amiel Mokhiber Jr. reflected on his father’s life during one of his recent hospitalizations, asking him about his best memories. His father’s response captured the essence of a life well-lived: “Having you children and making sandwiches for my customers. I loved my customers.”
Amiel J. Mokhiber Sr. leaves behind a lasting legacy as a successful entrepreneur, a devoted family man, and a beloved figure in the Rochester community.