Akay Yalcinday’s youngest and most loyal customer is Aria Anderson, 2. Yalcinday, an employee at the Rocket Food Mart and gas station in Lynbrook, regularly sees Aria and her father, Robert.
When they come, Aria beeps her yellow horn on her pink plastic car at pump 2, and Yalcinday happily lifts the hood and pretends to pump gas into it, which puts a smile on the young girl’s face every time. Yalcinday, originally from Turkey, has worked at the gas station for 16 years.
After "filling her tank," Yalcinday asks if she would like a receipt, and Aria always nods, her bright blue eyes beaming.
Before she pulls away, Akay conducts a fake oil change and wipes down the front of her toy car. Robert then hands his daughter $2 to give to Yalcinday, so that he can buy a cup of coffee from the Dunkin' Donuts next door. Yalcinday always thanks the Andersons and waves as they leave.
The relationship between the three has developed over the past year, and this exchange happens often, especially during the summer months.
“I have been a customer of the Rocket Mart for over a decade," Robert said. "One day, walking past the mart pushing Aria in her car, Akay summoned us over and treated Aria like a customer. He is a generous man, and the entire neighborhood knows it. Aria loves the attention.”
During a fearful time amid the coronavirus, Robert said, Aria knows that she can always count on Yalcinday to pump gas and share his time and a few kind words.
Compiled by Mike Smollins