An Appetite for Serving the Community

If the owner of the new IHOP in Irvington, N.J., tells you to finish your pancakes because children are starving in Africa, she knows first-hand what she’s talking about.

Adenah Bayoh, BS’01 (T), was born and raised in Liberia, but left the war-torn country and moved to New Jersey with her parents at the age of 13. “I came from so much tragedy back home,” she says. “I know what it is like to not have very much, so I appreciate everything here. I don’t take anything for granted.”

That attitude and an incredible work ethic have propelled Bayoh to great heights. Just 29 years old, she owns 14 residential and commercial properties. She has enjoyed a successful career as a banking executive. And most recently, she became a restaurant owner. Bayoh purchased the landmark Kless Diner in Irvington and converted it to an IHOP restaurant, which opened last summer.

The common thread in all her activities is the desire to help people. “For me, it’s all about making people’s lives better and giving back to the community.”

Her day starts at 6 a.m. in an office above the restaurant and often doesn’t stop until midnight. She does everything from overseeing food production to making deals with vendors to greeting the customers. Her hard work is paying off. The lunch crowd, for example, is double what was planned. “Business is going very well,” she says.

The real benefit, she adds, is the positive reviews from her customers. “People have told me, ‘you’ve given something great to the community, a beautiful place where I can take my family.’ That’s the great part for me.”


While Bayoh loves the restaurant business, she says her passion is redevelopment. “I love to take old buildings and turn them into something new.” For example, she purchased a rundown building in an economically distressed section of Irvington and turned it into a successful mortgage company.

Her penchant for buying property began soon after college, when she purchased a three-family home in Irvington, where she still resides. “My getting into real estate had everything to do with being a resident assistant at Fairleigh Dickinson. When you’re a resident assistant, it’s just like taking care of property, and the students are your tenants. I loved it.”

Serving as a resident assistant was just one of many campus activities for Bayoh. She especially became involved with the organization Nubian Ladies Making Vital Progress and became its president in her sophomore year. “It was a group where black women could share ideas and talk about our aspirations. And we were heavily involved in community service.”

Bayoh relished the fact that the University provided an “intimate setting where all the professors knew you by name” and where she made many close friends. “FDU was my home away from home.” She advises college students to “enjoy the moment. Once you leave college, it’s a different world.”

Bayoh is very familiar with different worlds. In Liberia, for example, there were no school buses, and she would walk five miles to school. “We didn’t have much, but my parents always made sure we knew that school was important.”

When she arrived in America, she says she was stunned that elementary and secondary education were free and that she could get a free lunch at school. “I appreciated those things so much, and I was so excited about going to school.”

During college, Bayoh was employed as a bank teller. After graduation she worked in management in several branches that eventually became Bank of America. She later became an executive at PNC Bank in Newark. “I loved banking and always did well.”

For her professional and community development efforts, Bayoh has been honored by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Township of Irvington. While such accolades are gratifying, she doesn’t consider herself a success. “I’ve had some accomplishments, but there is so much more I want to do. I’ve still got a long way to go.”

She hopes to open more restaurants, and she wants to focus more heavily on redevelopment efforts that help low-income families. She knows that there may be challenges ahead, but she is determined to stay true to her goals and values. “You have to always work hard and stick to your dream.”

— A.C.

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