NAUGATUCK — James Ayash does not know the names of all his neighbors, but thanks to his Ayash-Man Express Food Restaurant on Rubber Avenue, in the last two years he has learned something about them.
“I see people in their cars and I know exactly what they like to eat,” Ayash said.
The restaurant, which became a favorite with neighbors, high school students and Rubber Avenue workers, will close after Nov. 2, the day after Ayash’s 38th birthday.
Ayash does not owe taxes on the restaurant to the borough or the state, records indicate. He said the restaurant has been profitable but it was always a hobby, and he wants to try something new.
“It’s a lot of hours and it might be better for someone who doesn’t have young kids,” said Ayash, who has three sons between the ages of 9 and 13.
Apart from running for burgess in the Nov. 5 elections, Ayash said he does not know exactly what he will do next. He said his passions are chess and woodworking. He closed his handicraft stores in Waterbury, Milford and Trumbull to open the restaurant at 664 Rubber Ave.
About 10 customers were eating in the restaurant Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. Ayash, in a garnet-colored Naugatuck Football shirt, cooked lunches with his wife while his children walked in from school. The restaurant has been busy and business has been good, he said.
“We leave with our heads held high,” Ayash said. “Nobody is owed any money.”
Ayash said he does not know what will be next for the property, which has held a number of restaurants including Frankies and a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Ayash bought the property two years ago for $250,000. The total appraised value now is $370,000.
Ayash said he is excited about having more time for the holidays and starting a new adventure, but closing the restaurant is bittersweet.
“We’re going to really miss this place,” he said. “We’re going to miss serving people.”
Some of Ayash’s regular customers said they would miss the place, too. Alice Juraska of Waterbury said she used to stop by often while visiting a friend in the borough, then hitting Stop & Shop and Ocean State Job Lot.
“The people are very clean and the food is good,” Juraska said.