Peter B Deli on Wall Street is a favorite local spot for many. It’s my personal favorite deli in the area, with home-cooked food along with fresh selections and to-go sandwiches. You can often see Mohammad Barak there working, helping his family or just talking to other Kingston folks. Mohammad is one of the friendliest people in the whole city — a regular source of poetry, jokes, good cheer and positivity.
I remember one of my old bands used to rehearse in an apartment on Pine Street around the corner years ago and we’d always run to the nearby store for coffee, chicken cutlet lunch and Yoo-hoo. I highly recommend it as you can get a good meal or various things you need for your kitchen or refreshment quickly, with friendly service.
One day many summers ago I met Mohammad there outside playing a tape and it turned out he was a big Pet Shop Boys fan. We bonded over music and now I regularly see him driving around on weekends playing the coolest hits of the ’80s and ’70s from the car, which a welcome relief from a lot of the much worse music I hear coming from cars these days. Let’s get to know Mohammad better (or at least say hello, since many of you likely have already met him before in person).
Morgan Y. Evans: What is your earliest memory of Kingston? Maybe it is hard to remember because you have stayed very busy since then on a daily basis.
Mohammad Barak: Let me see. Yeah, I think it was my friend Rodney and Kim’s house near here. I remember that very well. I think they were standing on the porch. Also, when I first walked into the store and it didn’t look like a professional deli the way it does now. It looked more like a smoke shop. We purchased it. My parents were here first for months before me, my older brother, niece and nephews and sister-in-law came. They say change is good. We adapted to it here. We didn’t know too many people. We went one day at a time and as time passed by we started to get to know the people little by little. We enjoyed it. Before that I grew up in the Five Boroughs. Bayside. Rockaway, Queens.
Like the Ramones song. Were you bored when you came here? Did you think it was still exciting after living in a busier place like New York City? That’s cool about your parents. Your mom makes great food, by the way.
Thank you. To answer your question, for a few minutes it was boring but then customers started to come and be friendly. Some of my friends who have since passed away. I am outgoing and try to make people’s day better. It was a good journey. We have been here 18 years now with no problems. Everything is convenient for people to shop here. We try to make it nice for the people close by. We have reasonable prices and the food is delicious.
Facts. I agree. I have had breakfast here more times than I can remember. My first memory of you was you listening to the Pet Shop Boys and I thought,”This guy seems cool. He has good taste.” What is it about the old hits you like?
(laughing) I like music that is from the heart and has a good meaning. Depeche Mode. Pet Shop Boys. Tears For Fears’ Songs From The Big Chair.
That’s one of my all-time favorite albums. Good choice.
I like techno, freestyle, disco. All kinds of stuff.
(A customer comes in and we pause)
Hold on, I will let you help this lady.
Hi Kathy, how are you today?
(After the transaction, we resume talking)
What do you like the most about helping people?
I appreciate the little things in life. I respect people. The little and big things. It is good karma and a beautiful gift to be able to help people. My parents always told me since day one in childhood, two rules. You should treat people the way you want to be treated. Second rule, don’t wish bad upon nobody. If you do wish bad upon people it haunts you later. It’s a bad feeling.
That’s probably why you have a lot of friends. Do you have particular places in Kingston you like to go?
Mostly Uptown. I like The Strand but I mostly go Uptown. I like to go to the park and relax and meditate though. Free my mind. I wake up really early. My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. The store hours are 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and on the weekends it is a little different. I am a morning person, though. I enjoy waking up early and go to sleep on time because when you are on a set schedule you concentrate better. Things will be more normal.
You like to see the sun come up?
Have there been any events this year that you have enjoyed within Kingston?
I like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Fourth of July was great. The community things. I like that they had the fireworks at the carnival. I am not too big on the carnival all the time but this was cool. I can’t believe it has already been 18 years here. I feel blessed.
Thanks for your time today, buddy.
Thank you. You are a good friend.