An American poked their head into the Mogadishu Store on Lisbon Street in Lewiston and asked “Can I come in?”

“Why not,” responded shop owner Shukri Abasheikh. “You are welcome anytime.”

Abasheikh says that most of her customers are from Somalia, Angola, Uganda and Sudan, but her store is open to all.

“We are open to everybody,” said Abasheikh, who opened the small grocery store in 2006. 

Mohamed Heban said his customer base is made up of mostly people of African cultures. But the front door to the Baraka Store is open to all as well. 

Heban said Americans stop by to buy big bags of basmati rice and spices to make Somali tea.

Lewiston’s Lisbon street is home to numerous variety stores that cater to a growing immigrant population. 

Items range from soccer shirts to bulk spices to camel meat.

“Somali people eat a lot of meat,” said Abasheikh. “They have big families and will buy a whole box of chicken, one box of beef and one box of goat — all halal,” said the mother of eight.

The big bags of rice that are popular with American’s are even more popular with immigrants. Large families will go through one or two 40-pound bags each month, said Abasheikh. 

While Americans like their bananas ripe and yellow, Somalis prefer green bananas. “Very green bananas are good to cook with meat,” said Abasheikh, who said she will get complaints if her bananas are not green enough. 

Mango and guava juice mix are other items that move quickly at the Mogadishu Store. “We grow a lot of guavas and mangoes in Somalia,” said Abasheikh.

Lamb meat is well liked by the Sudanese, while fish from West Africa is popular with Angolan and Togolese customers, said Heban.

And while The Bread Shack and Forage Market are popular coffee shops with Americans, Safari Coffee is equally as popular with the immigrant population.

Sharmarke Farah opened the nondescript coffee shop in 2008. The small quarters is often filled with men watching news from Somalia on television. The connection is via the Internet, said Farah. 

Most stores offer a variety of services to make ends meet. “A mixture of services keeps me going,” said Hussein Ahmed, owner of Global Halal Market. 

The immigrant population stay well connected to their families back home in Africa, said Ahmed. Special calling cards and money transfers are offered through Ahmed’s store, as well as at many of the other shops. 

“Send your money, pay your bills, get your calling card, buy your food and go home. All in one shot,” said customer Zam Zam Mohamud.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: