Rumbling around the city in beat-up trucks, enterprising entrepreneurs like David Ohayo, age 39, drive from burger joint to hash house to diner, hawking the bargain basement restaurant supplies and vegetables they pick up cheap in wholesale food markets like Hunts Point in the Bronx.
“We moved here from Israel after my father died when I was 13, my mother and brother and me. I didn't like it here at the beginning.,, because I didn't speak any English. I went to school for one year, and I didn’t like it, because of the English. I got no friends, I got nobody to talk to, and I didn't like school. I decided to drop out and start working. That was when I was 14.
“My first job was making pizzas in Queens. My older brother was working also, and we were renting an apartment, helping my mother. And she had a brother who was here. Everybody was helping.
“When I set up enough money, I opened up my own pizzeria with another guy, but I was working, he wasn’t. He always comes in whenever he feels like it, and I was always fighting with this guy so I said, ‘Either you buy me out or I'll buy you out.’ So I wound up buying him out, and I was there about ten years, but I got tired of it, and I sold it.
“So I got the money, and I started looking around the city to open up another place. I used to have a small van and I was just driving around, looking for stores available, but the rent was too high. One day I was just driving along, doing nothing, and I went to the market. I started talking to people, ‘How much is this, how much is that,’ just curiosity, not really doing any business, and I found tomatoes for like $1.00 a box. So I bought 60 boxes, and I figured , let’s see what happens. I drove around to restaurants and I said, I got tomatoes for $7 or $8 a box, and in two or three hours I got rid of all 60 boxes. I made about $300 or $400 profit and I said, you know, I don’t even make this in the restaurant! No rent, no nothing, all by myself! So I went back to the market and I got again, and that's how it started.
“I drive around to all kinds of restaurants: fancy, cheap, diners, Indian, Italian, Mexican--all kinds. I ask for the owner or manager and say, ‘I got some vegetables or napkins or whatever.’ Some people kick me out; they say, ‘We don't want garbage.’ But I say, ‘Listen this is not garbage, it’s really good stuff.’ And when I'd sell them something, I say, ‘I’m always in the area. Here's my number; if you want to call me I’ll bring it,’ and that’s how you start a relationship with people.
“I never worked for anybody in my life, so I don’t know how it is to work with somebody. When I was 14 I was working in a pizzeria for a few months, but I never really worked for anybody, so I don’t know how to evenget one... do you go in and say, ‘Do you have a job for me?’ I don’t even know what jobs pay. I know nothing about it. But it’s all right, I like to work for myself.
“Let me tell you, I’m in real estate a little bit, so I'm not worried about money. I do this really just to keep me occupied.”