Cultures extend through businesses


World market offers varieties of food to fill up your tummy. photo by Patrick Smith

Kaitlyn Marsh

World market offers varieties of food to fill up your tummy. photo by Patrick Smith
World market offers varieties of food to fill up your tummy. Photo by Patrick Smith
While Columbia is known for its wide assortment of cultural differences and diversity, something else adds spark and variance to the everyday life of the working white man. Foreigners not only bring their families and customs overseas but also their businesses and lifestyles.
After venturing to the United States from Iraq in 1985 and finishing his doctorate in Nuclear Engineering, Dr. Shakir Hamoodi decided to establish a gourmet and ethnic food market in Columbia. In 2003, along with his family, Hamoodi opened the international food store, “World Harvest.”
“We try to bring things you don’t find at normal grocery stores, like your European cheeses, the really fine ones. We have special olive oils and vinegars and chocolates, lots of chocolates. [There is] Oriental foods, Indian foods and lots of other stuff,” Owais Abdul-Kafi, Hamoodi’s son and current business manager said. “We carry things you can’t find [at chain stores] so, if you were making a chocolate cake or something, we have the best baking chocolates in the world. You can find Hershey’s at Walmart … but we carry the fine, unique source cocoa and the nice handcrafted chocolates.”
Although they market primarily European, American and Middle-Eastern products, the business still brings in a variety of customer ethnicity and heritages, Abdul-Kafi said. From Arabian stuffed grape leaves to the beloved Nutella hazelnut spread, this small business appeals to all walks of life.
On the contrary, targeting the Asian population specifically, Oriental food markets such as the Hong Kong Market and Chong’s Oriental Market attract the business of junior Esther Liu on a regular basis. While her parents usually buy staple goods such as vegetables and spices, the shops also sell products not found in common grocery stores, Liu said.
“They offer food that I can’t find in the supermarket, like Chinese dumplings or lychee fruit. Sometimes they even sell groceries that are better. For example, even though Walmart sells bokchoy, I can usually find a bigger, greener one at the Hong Kong Market,” Liu said. “If it’s produce, it’s fresher. If it’s a canned good or something packaged, there are more brands and more varieties, like I can find at least five different kinds of tofu and like three different brands.”
As well as diversity in selection of store goods, cultural shops also keep a little authenticity on the plates of American-Asians and other ethnicities. For 2010 alumna Briana Marsh, who recently moved to Beijing to study abroad this past summer, her point of view has been the most outstanding modification since leaving the United States.
“My perception of Chinese culture has really changed a lot since I’ve come to China. … Let me start off by saying, Chinese food in America is nothing like authentic Chinese food.” Marsh said. “The food served at your favorite Chinese restaurant has almost certainly been altered to fit American taste preferences. In general, real Chinese food is much spicier than American-Chinese food and has a lot more flavor.”
And to display the authenticity in the products they are selling, small business owners also have more of a relationship with their customers, Liu said. An owner makes available the best products by understanding what the customer wants and looks for. The success of an international business is based off their knowledge and culture they bring to a different community, Liu said.
“I think the store-owners offer more variety because they know that people like to have options and to choose instead of being stuck with just one type or one brand,” Liu said. “I mean, not because they are simply Asian, but they are knowledgeable about Asian foods, which is important in finding the right products to place on the shelves.”
By Kaitlyn Marsh