The pursuit of that goal led the three Haddad brothers to open a restaurant in Tyler that came to be known as one of the finest of its time in the region.
William, Constantine, and Joseph Haddad opened the Mecca Café at 110 E. Ferguson St. on Sept. 30, 1915.
They had purchased the building on the northeast side of the downtown square from the Mardock family who had operated the Grand Star Restaurant there.
Edmond Schaded, a nephew of the three brothers, said they likely used the term Mecca meaning a gathering place or center of activity. It had no connection to the sacred city for Muslims as the Haddad brothers were Catholic.
Schaded said the brothers served American food — although there might have been a little French influence.
The day after the opening of the café in 1915, the Tyler Daily Courier-Times featured a positive review of the occasion. The writer reported that compliments were heard throughout the restaurant praising the decorations, service and cuisine.
A pianist, violinist and drummer provided music for the occasion and red and white roses decorated each table, according to the article.
Several leading Tyler families had reserved tables for the occasion, according to the account. Guests who toured the restaurant found the kitchen “neat as a pin.”
Advertisements printed after the restaurant opened cited excellent food, absolute satisfaction in every cup of coffee and unparalleled clubhouse sandwiches, according to research by James Wilkins.
“Excellent food and perfect surroundings lend to make the tired businessman forget his troubles and worries,” read one ad cited by Wilkins. “Those who appreciate quietness, refinement and the best of foods and service find all this and more at the Mecca Café.”
In 1927, a fire destroyed the inside of the facility. Although bad, the damage allowed the brothers to remodel the café in a way that impressed the community even more.
A picture kept by the Smith County Historical Society shows rows of tables with white table cloths and elegant water pitchers, lights and fans suspended from the ceiling and a balcony. Large mirrors adorned one side of the restaurant with flower arrangements placed throughout the café.
The special grand opening dinner cost $1 and apparently included the options of filet mignon, roast young Texas turkey and Mecca special tenderloin steak as the main dish, along with side dishes, a dessert, appetizers and a drink, according to an advertisement.
As a “24/7” establishment, the Mecca Café was, true to its name, a center of activity.
William Haddad, a sports enthusiast, drew in Tyler baseball players and other traveling athletes, according to a historical account by Wilkins.
The café also brought in independent oil operators, Schaded said. During the oil boom of the 1930s, it became somewhat of a “home” to these men, including H.L. Hunt.
Joseph served as president of the Tyler Rotary Club. William was an early promoter and supporter of the Tyler Trojans baseball team. And Constantine was active in the Tyler Catholic community, Schaded wrote in a short account of the family.
All became naturalized U.S. citizens and learned English before leaving Lebanon, Schaded said.
“They really left (Lebanon) and immigrated to the United States for a better way of life,” he said. “They were … I guess you’d say, hardworking. and they wanted to provide for themselves, support themselves and be established in business. And they all did that in one way or another.”
When William died in 1938, his two brothers decided to leave the business. Constantine went into oil properties and real estate and Joseph went into real estate and insurance.
Gus Patterson and Harry Sobol took over its operation, according to newspaper articles. Sobol operated it until the mid-1940s, according to Wilkins’ account.
In 1959, the Haddad heirs sold the building to Jeff Kamel, Wilkins wrote.
A shoe store operated there, followed by a women’s clothing store. But when the bank on the corner expanded, the existing buildings, including the former Mecca Café, were demolished, according to Wilkins’ account.
Although all the Haddad siblings have passed away and their restaurant is no longer, their lives served as an example of hard work and maximizing opportunity.
“These boys have not only erected a beautiful café, but they have taken their places in the ranks of Tyler’s, Texas’s and America’s Army of good citizenship,” a 1928 Tyler Daily Courier Times article read. “At all times they have been actively identified with the civic and commercial life of Tyler and Smith County, lending their unstinted support to any movement that has as its goal, the advancement of their city.”