Mahroof Karim opened his grocery store to serve the community of Mont Pleasant in Schenectady. His market, Faisal West Indian Grocery and Halal Meats, is one of the few local markets in the area to offer fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Karim’s selection is informed directly by his shoppers. “I have spent 10 years working in grocery stores and helping others manage their businesses,” says Karim. “I noticed how successful this type of business seemed to be in my community and how much support there is within this niche neighborhood. I realized that eventually I would like to be my own boss and build wealth for my family. I utilized those experiences to learn how to run a successful grocery store and then decided to open my own, focusing on everyday food and products as well as authentic and ethnic goods that cannot be found in traditional grocery stores.”

The market carries a wide selection of fresh seafood, authentic Jamaican, Caribbean, and Asian spices, fruits and juices, beauty products and West Indian chocolates, candles and snacks.

Faisal accepts WIC and SNAP, as well as cash and credit. The market is also conveniently located, Karim points out, so that many customers are just a short walk away. Karim himself does not drive, and wanted his market to be accessible even to those with no car.

When Karim wanted to expand his store – essentially turning it from a corner store into a market – he needed funding for new equipment and additional inventory. He turned to family at home and abroad, but they were unable to help. He was not able to get it from traditional banks. That’s when he turned to the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.

“For my business, the Community Loan Fund has been a huge help,” Karim says. The Community Loan Fund was there to support me and that allowed me to purchase additional inventory, freezers and equipment to expand my store’s selection.”

Business has increased since the expansion. Neighbors are happy to support a local business, and Karim is glad to be able to provide healthy, nutritious food right within the neighborhood. The store’s expansion has made healthy food more accessible to the local community; the nearest large grocery store is five miles away.

The biggest challenge of owning his own business has been the getting the proper paperwork together. English is not his first language, and sometimes that has made it hard to understand what is being asked of him. “There is a lot of regulations and paperwork that go into running a store of this variety and thankfully I had friends and family who helped me file the necessary documents and get all my approvals,” says Karim.

Karim likes running a grocery store, and the freedom that it affords. “I think the biggest surprise is the fact that everything is up to me,” says Karim. “I have to make decisions and order inventory and file reports – but I love it.”