Monther Erar was born in Amman, Jordan, almost 7,000 miles away from his current home in Saltillo, where he lives with his wife and two children.
He owns and operates several gas stations, a liquor store and a restaurant and bar.
Erar was struck with cancer in his arm at the age of 16 while still living in Jordan. After several rounds of failed chemotherapy, the doctors left him with an ultimatum – he must choose between his arm or his life.
“It was really hard to cope with in the beginning,” Erar said. “I couldn’t imagine functioning without both of my arms. I thought I’d never be able to work a job and live a normal life.”
The surgery was successful, but Erar was left with limited choices about what he could do for a living. After working odd jobs and attending college for a few years, he decided to pack up and leave for America. His older brother had moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and he found Erar a job working at a gas station.
“Everyone I knew who moved to America told me that if you worked hard enough, you could be successful,” he said. “I figured with one arm, I’d have to work twice as hard.”
Erar worked as a cashier in a gas station for about seven years. He lived very modestly and saved cash wherever he could.
While working there, he also worked with food and dreamed of opening a restaurant. Cooking had always been a hobby for Erar, but now that he lived in the United States, his dream was more feasible.
“I always found cooking as a sort of therapy for myself,” he said. “I never really needed both hands to cook good food, so my love for spicing, seasoning and barbecuing really never went away.”
Erar saved enough money working in the gas station to open his own gas station with one of his friends in Mississippi. This gas station became successful, and he opened several more.
After 13 years in the Mississippi gas station business, he grew sick of the monotony of running and maintaining a gas station. Erar decided it was finally the right time to open up his dream restaurant.
His restaurant, Amsterdam Beer and Deli, has Mediterranean-style cuisine with a large selection of beer on tap. It’s located in Tupelo right next to his liquor store. He offers food influenced by his past in Amman and Cleveland, as well as a touch of Mississippi.
“I love this place, it’s everything I ever wanted in a restaurant,” Erar said. “Even though I hire people to do the work for me, I still get behind the counter and make food every once in a while.”
Erar said his dream is to open up more chains of his restaurant across north Mississippi. His plans for future locations include Pontotoc, Starkville and Oxford.