Essam (Sam) Fawzy, Popcorn Wagon, Sixth Street & Nicollet Mall
For the past two years, Essam (Sam) Fawzy has worked at a fun job that may even lure office workers trapped indoors on nice days.
Fawzy operates the Popcorn Wagon, located near City Center at 6th Street & Nicollet Mall. He originally immigrated to the United States from Cairo, Egypt for opportunity and a better life. He came here after hearing the expression "Minnesota Nice" - no kidding - and figured that signaled a good place to put down new roots.
Fawzy worked for American Express for eight years before being laid off. He said he'll be a popcorn seller until he finds a job in another financial institution, a job search that's lasted two and half years so far.
Still, he said of his current job, "This was a wonderful thing for me and helped me get out of my box," adding that he is motivated and has a positive attitude towards life.
As such, he welcomes regular customers knowing what they want and often having it ready for them as they emerge from a long day of work. Some want regular popcorn, some prefer mixed and some like extra buttered popcorn.
"I treat my customers as they are my best friends," he said. "I accommodate to them, and keep good relations with them the best way I know."
Dave Johnson, a regular customer, agrees. "I enjoy Sam's company," he said. "They have delicious popcorn, and he welcomes and treats customers with great respect."
Said Popcorn Wagon owner Jeff Ruff, "Sam was godsend to me. He is reliable and good with customers. A lot of people come to visit Sam as often as they buy popcorn."
The 27-year-old popcorn wagon is on its way to being a Downtown historic landmark. The wagon is antique and restored and many tourists often stop by to take pictures with it. It's open between May to October and during the Holidazzle parade.
The wagon carries fresh peanuts, nachos and cheese, slushies, pop, candy, ice cream, and Red Bull energy drink. Fawzy's also sells cotton candy. When you think of cotton candy, you may think of the State Fair or carnivals, but why go to the carnival when you can find a community version on a Thursday afternoon on Nicollet Mall, otherwise known as the Farmers Market?
Popcorn is, of course, the big seller, Fawzy says. "The main reason why it sells so well is that it is great popcorn and is served with real butter like mom does," he said. " I witnessed this with my own eyes when I got some popcorn seeds to throw to the pigeons that so anxiously look forward to get a taste of pure bliss and are like Pac Man in the process by eating all the popcorn seeds, before the evil birds get them."
Fawzy often lets customers sample his products before they purchase them. He has a "150 percent satisfaction, money-back" guarantee. On an average day, Fawzy said 50 to 100 people buy from the popcorn wagon, and he hopes to increase the customer base by adding mini-doughnuts and coffee. (He sells java, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and chili during the Holidazzle parade.)
Be sure to remember this article, because Sam mentioned that anyone who brings this whole article to the wagon would get free popcorn, on him.