The Mediterranean Bakery first opened on April 17th, 1977. Ours is a classic American success story.
Our patriarch, Ali Kysia, was born in Lebanon in 1896 and came to America in 1917, where he joined the U.S. Army and fought in World War I so he could become an American citizen. After the war, he went back to Lebanon, married Salima Amer, and fathered six children – Nadia, Fuad, Mona, Lila, Sleiman, and Sara – before returning to the U.S. to support his growing family.
After Salima died in 1943, Ali married Lucy Lyman and they had three more children: Joseph, Lisa, and Lydia. Ali worked for a local grocer in Royal Oak, Michigan, and saved his money to bring his other children here. Fuad and Mona arrived in 1949, Sleiman and Lila in 1953, and Sara in 1959. After serving with distinction in Korea, Fuad went into the auto industry. Mona joined Pan Am and settled in San Francisco. Lila returned to Lebanon where she worked as a nurse. Sleiman became a high school teacher in Michigan. Sara moved to New York City with the McCann-Erickson Advertising agency, working her way up to eventually run their accounting department in Louisville, Kentucky.
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Ali’s oldest daughter, Nadia married Yusuf Chway and had three children of her own: Samia, Sami, and Samir. In the 1970s they moved to the DC area, where Samia was working for the World Bank and Sami was working as a food & beverage manager for the Hilton Company.
Ever since he was a boy, watching pita bread blossom in the stone ovens near his home in Lebanon, Sami had a life-long dream to open a bakery. In 1977, the family took the money they had saved and leased a small shop in Alexandria, where Sami built our first brick oven. They sold homemade pita bread, and Nadia’s yummy spinach pies, maamoul, and baklava. Thus, the Mediterranean Bakery was born.
In 1978, Sleiman moved to Northern Virginia and joined the business. In 1980, Lila returned to the U.S. to help out too, and in 1989 Mona retired from Pan Am and joined the business as well. Sara and her husband Vern Beauleau would often drive down from New York or Louisville to help out on weekends too. And when Sara retired in 2006, they also moved to Alexandria so Sara could join the business full time (some retirement!). In 2017, when Sleiman stepped down, Abdallah al’Sawwaf—our pastry chef since the 1980s and a long-time family friend—took over as our general manager.
Samir died tragically in 1982. Mona passed in 2010, Fuad & Lila in 2018, and Sleiman in 2020. Today, Nadia, Sami, and Samia are retired, but Sara still comes in for a few hours most days, and Sleiman’s son Ramzi and grandson Yusuf both work in the business too. We’re older now, but we’re still truckin’ along family-owned and operated since 1977!