Tiffany Lee, Founder/Owner of Shades of Commerce, had a candid discussion with Mohammed Ali, Partner at Garden Market Basket, located in the heart of Bedford Stuyvesant, New York.
Tiffany: What makes your store unique?
Mohammed: This store has been here before any other store opened. It’s been here for a long time. Everybody knew us before any other store around us.
We have stuff in our store that nobody has. Like, the most organic stuff. We sell only healthy food. We don’t deal with cigarettes, tobacco, we don’t have alcohol. The only thing we sell is fresh food, including vegan.
Tiffany: Why do you like BedStuy, Brooklyn?
Mohammed: Me personally, I’ve been here only 14yrs. I like the change. Every 3-4yrs you see something new & different. The upgrading, the building, people move from all over. It makes BedStuy one of the hub spots. I love BedStuy.
Also, the transportation at Utica station. And, we have the bus on two corners; we have the B26 and B15.
Tiffany: What’s your Covid-19 experience?
Mohammed: We used to open 24hrs before but when the pandemic started we did only part-time which is like a half-shift. Because, you know, we had to serve some people. They need food. It’s a grocery store. Everybody needs to shop so they could stay home.
The pandemic effected our business but we still do a little bit to help our community and to help ourselves. We work as much as we can to support the people who are going outside to face the pandemic.
Tiffany: Does your heritage/ethnicity impact your daily business?
Mohammed: It has nothing to do with our business be- cause we do not sell or serve any food, or stuff, from our religion. For example, we are from Yemen. It’s hard to get things because (of) what’s going on in my country. Because (of) the war, if you know about that. With the groceries and organic stuff that we have it’s easy to get them and easy to sell them.
If I want to bring our food, or to make similar to our food, we can’t. We can’t get the ingredients.
Tiffany: What is wonderful about Yemen?
Mohammed: What are the wonderful and unique things about being from Yemen? We’re all from Yemen, my family. Yemen is a beautiful and good country. The religion for Yemen is Muslim. But in these days, Yemen is in a bad time because they have a war going on. People fighting over the politics. But if we are talking about Yemen before – it’s a great, beautiful, country. We have some states or cities in Yemen – so green it looks like Heaven if you looked at it in google.
We are all Muslim. Everybody knows, Yemen is in the middle east. I think it has like 20-30 million people. The best things that we do in our religion, we call it The Great Month, it’s called Ramadan. It’s a fasting month. Sometimes it comes in July. Sometimes it comes in August. Sometimes it comes in June. It depends about the year but it’s 30 days of fasting. We wouldn’t eat. We wouldn’t drink. That’s one of our favorite months in our religion.
And then we have the two holidays a year. It’s considered as an American holiday now, it’s called Eid-al-Fitur. What’s that? When Ramadan finishes, the next day following is called Eid-al-Fitr. Then we have another Eid called Eid-al-Adha which is like the second holiday for our religion.
Tiffany: Any final thoughts?
Mohammed: The most important thing I want to say is that we are in the United States of America, especially New York and Brooklyn. We do our part and we don’t get bothered at all. I do my religion, free. With freedom, I pray. I go to the Mosque with all my freedom and no bothering and no heat at all. That’s why we are living here. We love the country because you can do what you have to do with the freedom.