Thursday, May 31, 2007
The African Food Market is located in the City of Crystal on highway 81, sandwiched between the Crystal Inn and a Carpet King next to the Crystal Airport. At 13,500 square feet, the structure is a symbol of the growing stature and impact the African immigrant community is having in Minnesota. It is now commonplace to see anything from African stores to churches sprinkled around the Twin cities and soon, if one man’s dreams are achieved, you will soon see African malls.
That man is Kwaku Addy, owner of Addy Enterprise under which the African Food Market operates. Addy had worked at a Seven Eleven while in college before graduating as a mechanical engineer. One day while buying rice at a Liberian owned store in Minneapolis, Addy joked about buying the store to the then owner, Fatu Davis. She called him two weeks later inquiring about his bid for the store. After thinking it over, Addy was able to secure a 10,000 loan with which he bought the retail store, naming it the African Food Market.
By the mid 90’s, a stronger African presence was beginning to emerge around Brooklyn Park and Addy realized that most of his customers were from this area. It only made sense to take the business to where the clients were and in 98′ he moved the store to a new location on Brookdale and Zane Street in Brooklyn Park.
Business boomed and in about two years he had outgrown the medium-sized store. He moved to a larger store in 2000 on Zane and Brooklyn Boulevard, the store quickly growing into a staple of the African community, serving as both a food market and community center of sorts.
Addy’s dream was to have an African mall offering a range of services and goods distinctly geared toward the African community. He realized that The African Food Market had matured beyond the level of a store so he started looking for a bigger facility. In 2006 he was able to secure a $1.5m loan with which to open the African Food Market at its current location in Crystal.
The mini-mall now includes, a clothing store, a photo shop, a beauty salon, a wholesale store, a ballroom and several office spaces that have been rented out. The retail store has a state of the art scanner system rivaling his competition, Rainbow and Cub foods and is complete with a deli that offers outside catering.
"Stick to your goals, don’t rob your market,” Addy cautions African entrepreneurs. “Don’t make $5 and spend $6."
Addy admits that part of the challenge has been finding like minded people, like his current General Manager, Jackson George, who would help propel his vision. "[The African Food Market] used to be a family store, but needed new ideas and someone who would help push my dream,” says Addy. "For the store to be progressive and offer the best customer service that can be – coming from an African background- I had to let a few employees go and replace them with professional and progressive minded people."
Addy is inspired by other communities like the Hmong and the Chinese who work together to support and sustain their business ventures and is very grateful of the support he has received from the African community.
"I want to be an African example," says Addy when speaking of African ingenuity. "This enterprise is not just for me, it is for West Africans, it is for Africans."
His future plans include opening two or three more malls in Minnesota, then opening branches in Texas and Atlanta, Georgia.
He would eventually like to move his malls to Africa. He will soon be launching the website www.africanfoodmall.com