On Saturday morning, Feb. 4, Fergie’s Pub co-owner Wajih Abed died after complications surrounding throat cancer. He was 71 years old.
Abed, a native of Palestine, immigrated to Philadelphia in 1964. He worked his way up at legendary Philly eatery Bookbinders Seafood House, eventually becoming general manager. That’s where he met Irish ex-pat Fergus Carey, then a bartender at McGlinchey’s, who was looking to open his own spot.
The Irishman and the Palestinian decided to join forces, and together they opened Fergie’s Pub in fall of 1994.
At the time, the location was considered risky, surrounded by shuttered shops, prostitution stops and vagrants doing drugs. But the pair saw potential.
“My friends said we were crazy, but people trusted us,” Abed said in a 2014 interview. “We worked hard. It paid off.”
While Carey stocked the bar with newly-popular craft beers — often tapping his Monk’s Cafe partner Tom Peters for advice — Abed handled the food and the numbers side of the biz. The tavern would go on to flourish for 23 years, and now sits astride of one of Philly’s buzziest Midtown Village intersections.
“He was a shrewd businessman who loved to work. He taught me so much,” said Carey. “He was ying to my yang. He was the father figure to the Fergie’s Pub family and will be so badly missed.”
Viewing will be on Tuesday evening, Feb. 7, at McGuinness Funeral Home (34 Hunter St., Woodbury, NJ). Burial follows on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at Arlington Park Cemetery (1620 Cover Rd., Pennsauken, NJ). Abed is survived by a brother, sister and two sons.
Fergie’s Pub remains open, but will be closed on Wednesday for the funeral.