Family is everything for the Hankanjin brothers of Brooklyn Bros. Pizza in Arden, and for a time in their lives, it was the only thing they had. That’s why the Bros have made giving back a key ingredient of what they do. They are repaying the kindness shown to them years ago.
“Our mother had to flee Albania in 1987,” explains Maky, who runs the restaurant with his older brothers Arsim and Nicki. Families were being persecuted as the crumbling communist regime scrambled to remain in power. Mrs. Hankanjin escaped with two young children. The journey was not an easy one. Neither was life in New York City, where she gave birth to Maky.
“We spent many years in and out of shelters, with incredibly kind people, and we wouldn’t have made it without them,” Arsim says.
That’s why last month, when the brothers learned about the Christmas Is For Kids Extravaganza with Mix 96.5, they stepped up to help. The radio station produces a party each year for hundreds of children in foster care, and those spending Christmas in homeless and crisis shelters.
“I will never forget one year, all I wanted was a G.I. Joe,” Arsim told me as he prepared a pizza and slid it into the oven. “I get this huge present and it’s not just a G.I. Joe, but a huge military vehicle and an entire army. It was incredible, that this had happened to me, and that someone cared.”
When it came time for Christmas Is For Kids, Arsim and Nicki stayed to handle another busy Brooklyn Bros. Saturday, so Maky could join the kids to prepare and help serve 100 pizzas. “It’s the right thing to do, when you’re in a community, you help each other, people you’re not related to, or may not even know,” Macky says. “We’re all family.”
The brothers also support the 828 Teacher of Month, awarding a gift card to a winning teacher nominated each month through Mix 96.5 and the828.com. “When we were growing up, teachers, especially coaches, were important father figures to us,” Arsmin explains. “It’s another way for us to give back.”
As the brothers got older, they spent time with other relatives who escaped Albania, and honed their skills in the kitchen. When it was time to go out on their own, they came to South Asheville with the best garlic knots this side of the Hudson River. They brought delicious pasta dishes, giant hot cheesy sandwiches, and a zesty pizza sauce. They even brought the perfect cappuccino.
Most importantly to the brothers, though, was remembering that sense of community. Whether you’re coming in for a couple of slices for lunch or bringing the family for a whole pie (and I’m serious about those knots – don’t forget them), you’re part of the family. In this family, giving back is tradition.
Brooklyn Bros. Pizza is located on Sweeten Creek Road at Buck Shoals in Arden, near the junction with Hendersonville and Airport roads.
Former TV weatherguy who never got it right, til the day I predicted mostly cloudy skies with a 100% chance of unemployment. I've survived stints as a morning radio host, stay-at-home dad, and lab assistant. All left me with with varying degrees of side-effects, which somehow combined to make me a good fit to be the editor/video producer of the828.com.