Northeast spotlight: A central player on Central

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October 12, 2009
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
// Holy Land is a growing business that gives back //


It’s not enough for Holy Land CEO Majdi Wadi to focus on expanding his own business.

Wadi is also focused on strengthening his surrounding neighborhood on Central Avenue, giving back to organizations throughout Minnesota and supporting other entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities diverse immigrant communities.

Holy Land, an imported gourmet grocery store, bakery and deli in Northeast, now boasts the state’s first hummus production facility. The 140-employee company used to make 50,000 containers of hummus a month, packaging and filling each one by hand. Now, Holy Land has the capacity to make 70,000 a month in one-third the amount of time.

Not only does that add up to more hummus, it also adds up to more dollars for area nonprofit organizations.

On the packaging of each hummus container, a customer can cut out a 25 cent coupon to give to a nonprofit of their choice. Holy Land will issue a check to nonprofits that turn in the coupons.

The company also has an ongoing commitment to donate 5 percent of its annual gross revenue to community groups and schools.

Wadi expects to pay out $150,000 to community organizations next year.

The new hummus production facility is at 2519 Central Ave. NE — an address that used to be home to Sully’s Bar, an establishment that had a reputation for attracting trouble to the neighborhood. Holy Land purchased the bar in 2007 and renovated it to make way for the new facility. The company also bought another vacant building nine blocks away from its business, which is now home to its bakery.

Wadi, a Palestinian immigrant, said the generosity is a product of his family’s religious values. His family opened Holy Land in Northeast in 1987, serving their grandfather’s bread recipe and grandmother’s recipes for the deli items.

“I purchased and expanded into the two new locations not for my business, but to help make a positive difference for Minnesota families and other small business owners in the area,” Wadi said. “Over the past 20 years, Minnesota communities have been very supportive of my family and our business. I show my appreciation by giving back to the communities through donations; helping other small-business owners establish their business; working with the city to build a safer neighborhood; and by creating new jobs.”

Wadi said he’d like to help others become successful entrepreneurs, too. He’s got at least one example to point to on Central. Meerwais Azizi started working with Wadi 18 years ago. Four years later he opened his own business — Crescent Moon Bakery a couple of blocks away. Now he has another location, too, on Como Avenue.

“[Wadi]  is a really nice guy. He’s a hard worker,” Azizi said. “He was very good to me.”

City Council Member Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) said Wadi “personifies the American dream.”

“He’s had a tremendously positive impact on the neighborhood. Majdi invested on Central Avenue when other’s were not,” he said. “He started with all of this 10 years ago, and he’s built an incredibly successful business. He has served in many ways as a pioneer that other’s can look up to.”

Rybak echoed Ostrow’s comments about Wadi.

“Central Avenue has a great history, but it’s seen some tough times and now it’s being reborn after a period of commercial decline because Holy Land has helped spur a remarkable revitalization,” he said in a statement.

Wadi has aspirations beyond commercial entreprises, too.

“The bakery and hummus factory is only the start of Holy Land’s plan for the community. Our vision includes providing a new residential development for the neighborhood,” he said.

Besides at its Central Avenue retail locations, Holy Land products are carried at the Midtown Global Market, Cub Foods, Rainbow Foods, Lunds, Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, Whole Foods and The Wedge Co-op.


FYI
Holy Land
Where: The deli and hummus factory are on the 2500 block of Central Avenue Northeast
Website: holylandbrand.com