When Yasir first opened up shop on the corner of a small town main street, he had no way of knowing he’d just placed a grocery store in what longtime residents knew as “the revolving pizza shop.”
The building changed ownership every year or two, and had been a pizzeria of some kind for as long as anyone could remember. Now, in what was once the dining room, Yasir and his wife Sara set up rows of shelves and stocked them with groceries.
The couple had moved to Minnesota from Egypt to escape religious persecution. When they arrived in a little town with two tiny family restaurants, one Burger King, one Subway, four bars, and one frequently-robbed bank, they were thrilled to fill what they saw as a niche. An Egyptian grocery store, they figured, with imported products and labels in looping Arabic text, would be an attention-getter.
But the small town had come to expect whoever occupied the revolving pizza shop to leave. Yasir had curious traffic in his store, but few returning customers.
Yasir set up a chair outside his door, just behind the sidewalk lining the main street, and made small talk with the people passing by. This had been his custom at his store in Egypt—in fact, it had been everyone’s custom to sit outside their shops, to mingle in the streets, to share and connect with each other. And as was their custom, store owners in this little town remained comfortably behind their registers.
Yasir and Sara enjoyed the relief, the freedom from persecution, he told passers-by, but missed the community.
In the end, Yasir held out longer than the revolving pizza places. But two and a half years later, he and Sara quietly packed up, and Steve’s Pizza moved in to take their place.
(Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels)