Every morning, Hussein Hayari wakes up at just after three o’clock. He immediately heads down to Reading Terminal Market so he can beat out other buyers to purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables for his open-air market. Despite all his efforts, Hayari is still struggling.
Premium Produce on Second Street and Glenwood Avenue can only afford to employ three people, two of whom are friends of Hayari, while the third is his brother. Even then, he sometimes has to wait a week before he can pay them during the winter due to slow sales.
To make matters worse, over the past few months, Hayari has repeatedly been denied loans to complete construction on a building he said he hopes will expand his business.
“The city doesn’t help you with nothing. You need equity, collateral, but I don’t own a house or have a mortgage,” Hayari said. “My credit’s not bad, I just can’t get a loan.”
Construction on the two-story building has barely gotten off the ground, standing with only its four concrete walls erected and tools from the halted project left spread about. Hayari originally planned on completing the building this past November, but due to his inability to get a loan, completion has been pushed back to either June or July.
“We’re here seven days a week. We’re building this all on our own,” Hayari said.
One of Premium Produce’s employees Robert Rodriguez does his best to make due with whatever wage has been afforded him each week.
“I take care of myself, but it’s never enough,” Rodriguez said. “I’m struggling, I have a high school diploma and that doesn’t help at all. No matter where I apply, I don’t get a call.”
Rodriguez said he has a criminal record that may hold him back from gaining better employment.
“They do background checks,” Rodriguez said. “My record makes everything I do mean nothing. I pay rent, bills and it means nothing. None of it does.”
Rodriguez declined to comment on what was on his record.
Despite Hayari’s own predicament, he has done everything possible to make sure Rodriguez and his other employees are able to take care of themselves and their families.
He even goes so far as to help out the families in the neighborhood.
“There’s a lady that lives right on [Glenwood Avenue], she’s got six kids and at the end of the month all she can afford to feed them is Ramen Noodles,” Hayari said. “I always bring her extra produce at the end of the month and I’m not all about welfare, but you got to help people out.”