Dua Lipa and Me
Brennan Carley ’13 landed the job of a lifetime.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED
The owner of Flat Breads sandwich shop reflects on thirty years of serving up wraps to the Boston College community.
Generations of Boston College students have fueled up for class by stopping in at Flat Breads, the Commonwealth Avenue sandwich shop that celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year. As familiar as the store’s trademark wraps and loyalty cards is owner John Acampora, who mans the cash register and greets each customer with a hearty hello.
Life’s a game of zigs and zags. You face the challenges all at once, no matter how strong you think you are. Mine were life challenges. You’re raising a family and life is wonderful. You’ve got a great corporate job and your career is fulfilled and you’ve got the big house in Weston and all the accoutrements to go with it. And all of a sudden, that is diminished, and you’re in a different place, in a different game plan. That’s where I found myself. With the help of God, and this little store, and the people that have been around me, I’ve managed through it. And here I am, at the bright, bold age of eighty-four, not lamenting my fate, but being very grateful for the hand that I’ve been dealt.
Build connections to people. I spent years training with Hilton in Chicago, and would often speak at Cornell at the hotel school. And you get all these people that have got these grand and elaborate plans for profit and loan statements, but the bottom line is, it’s a business to serve. And in that experience, you create better things because you amplify the relationship. Whatever you do, it’s an extended part of human relations, and that’s inherent in the DNA, in this business especially. And if you can do that, you become successful.
Craft something you can be proud of. The quality ingredients and the preparation make the sandwiches good. I’ve got a young man, Mynor, who’s been with me for twenty-five years. Not only is he fast, he’s impeccable in the design of the sandwiches and the execution of the menu. There’s nothing worse than getting a sandwich that doesn’t taste like what you think you ordered. And I think we achieved that goal of giving people what they wanted. Virtually nobody would ever come back and say that it was a bad sandwich.
Invest in people. Mynor came here, unbeknownst to me, as an undocumented immigrant. And his first paycheck didn’t go through because of that. And I was driving home and I was compelled to call back and bring him back in. In that whole process, I found out a lot about the young man, and chose to mentor him and create a path to legalization. I brought him to an immigration attorney who still consults for us. We laid out a plan and six years later, he and I were at the Worcester Mechanics Hall. Six hundred people on the floor, and there he was with his American flag waving up, becoming a citizen. One of the happiest days of my life. In that whole relationship, he’s become more than a son.
Remember your commitments. You’ve got to be here for Alumni Weekend when they come back. I had one last year, a young lady, graduated fifteen years ago, moved to San Francisco, had not been back. And she came back and presented herself with a loyalty card that I guarantee you made every cycle in her laundry for fifteen years. It was frayed beyond recognition, but it was legible. There were eight on there. She bought two sandwiches and got a free one. You’d think she had died and gone to heaven.
Everyone can use a kind word. It’s those kinds of special interactions that you have with people on the way through that I find significant in my life. Especially at this stage. I’m not running any race. I’m here to do the best I can to help as many people as I can. And that’s where self-gratification is extreme because everybody here needs a little something. Whether it’s a kind-hearted expression, or it’s a thank you. For me, it’s an acknowledgement. And the support of a community that I think really cares about us.