Zack Shalabi is the owner of the food joint, located at 4900 Western Center Blvd.
At age 17, Shalabi went to Fort Hood in Killeen to learn how to fly airplanes. The training, conducted by military personnel, was rigorous. He graduated with an aviation degree in 1989 and then moved to Fort Worth.
To Shalabi’s dismay, the aviation industry was not performing well during that time.
The rising cost of fuel and decreasing demand for air travel during a weak economy were affecting airlines. Pan American World Airways, once the largest international air carrier, went bankrupt and ceased operation in 1991.
He ended up saving a little bit of money, which he put into a small Mexican restaurant in Arlington. He operated the restaurant with his wife and in-laws.
And ever since, he has been an entrepreneur in some form or another.
He used to own a Mediterranean restaurant and also the historic Arlington Steak House. He has bought and managed gas stations, a towing company and a check-cashing store.
Then, in May Shalabi opened his latest venture.
The new Huddle House location in Haltom City sits on a commercial lot that also has an Exxon gas station and a taco shop. Shalabi owns the whole lot, which is valued at $2.2 million.
The Huddle House restaurant, by itself, cost about $800,000 to open. Currently, about 15 employees work at the location.
The Southern-style eatery borders Fort Worth’s city limit and is surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
Huddle House serves typical American cuisine of breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual-dining atmosphere.
However, through all of his business dealings, he never lost his passion for flying.
Shalabi began his commercial pilot career in the late ’90s with American Eagle, the regional branch of American Airlines.
He switched to international travels with Qatar Airways, followed by Virgin Nigeria Airways.
Shalabi also runs a second gas station business in Forest Hill, south of Fort Worth.