Everyday Hero

I don’t think it’s unfair to say we live in a time when most people don’t want to get involved. You read about it in the news, you see it on television, you may have experienced it firsthand. And sometimes, yes, that may be completely understandable.

But when someone does get involved, stops waiting for others to do something and steps up to do it himself, it’s that much more notable. We want good to prevail. We’d like to think that if we needed help, were threatened in any way, someone else would be willing to get involved.

You may have heard about the robbery which occurred at the Bank of America branch on Aloma at the end of the shopping center containing Outback Steakhouse and Whole Foods. The robber emerged from the Bank of America branch and then somehow decided the adjacent Giovanni’s restaurant should be part of his escape plan. His mistake.

Giovanni’s restaurant, a few spaces down from the Bank of America branch robbed on April 12.

Alex Nikolloj is the manager at the location, of which he is part owner. It’s part of a group of Giovanni’s restaurants started by his father and three uncles. They’re from the Bronx, so you know it’s authentic.

Alex was in his office when the robber entered the restaurant. The robber apparently wanted to make his way through the restaurant and leave out the back. Boxes of supplies blocked his path and he soon retreated back to the front. That’s where his day started to get a lot worse.

Local media has reported that a dye pack exploded in his pocket, where he’d stashed the stolen cash. “It wasn’t an exploding dye pack,” however, Alex explains. As the robber arrived back at the front of the restaurant a “red, misty smoke” began billowing out of his pocket. “It started coming out of his pocket in a huge amount,” says Alex. The robber then pulled the device out of his pocket and threw it on the floor as the front filled with red smoke.

Employees at the restaurant were unaware of the bank robbery. Alex says one employee thought the guy was a terrorist. Employees quickly felt a burning sensation in their eyes and throats, but Alex isn’t sure that wasn’t because everyone was shocked and “freaking out”.

The robber bolted from the restaurant. Alex followed. He went further out into the parking lot as the robber ran down the front of the shopping center. Alex ran back in toward the shopping center and, as he explains, gave him more of a “bear hug” than tackled him in front of Jumbo Chinese restaurant.

Alex Nikolloj in front of his family’s Giovanni’s Italian restaurant.

“The adrenaline kicks in and takes over,” he says, attempting to explain the series of events. He says he feels bad for law enforcement officials who have to make quick decisions, deal with such situations regularly.

It becomes obvious Alex is the kind of guy who does the right thing, expects others to. “I understand that with the economy and everything, it’s tough,” he says. “I get it.” The new father talks of buying a home in 2006, at the height of the housing market, then says, “life is life. I try to deliver the best food that I can, the best service.”

Alex started at this location of Giovanni’s in 2001 as a “pizza man”. As the family had other larger stores they wished to focus on, the location was actually sold in 2004, but the buyer was out of business within a year. Giovanni’s moved back in 2005, with Alex now part owner.

Alex Nikolloj is just an average guy trying to do what he’s supposed to, not afraid to get involved when he needs to. An everyday hero, of which we could use many more.

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