I can’t believe it’s 2013. This little store that started as a dream for it’s founder, is 15 years old!
I don’t know what it feels like to be handed someone else’s dream, but I know what it feels like to love someone who has a dream, who worked hard to make something out of nothing and who gave all he had to his patrons. Who sometimes, wasn’t interested in selling you anything, but gave his time to listen to his patron’s personal issues and often times, help them work out a situation that no one else could otherwise do for them.
For the past 5 years, whenever I speak to the customers when I am at the register and they say almost the same things, “Man Must Wak (his nickname & also the store’s motto), was my best friend” He didn’t care if I was Nigerian or not. He didn’t care if I was black or white, he just cared about me” It may seem easy to do, but it is not easy to be completely open and pure to people who are different from you. Even when you do know that you come from similar backgrounds, you may be a bit skeptical about their true intentions.
Miraculously, It’s been 5 years since I became a store owner and whether it is God, luck, the spirit of Man Must Wak himself, the store is still functioning. We have built up a following of very loyal customers who come rain or shine, come to us. We have a huge competitor next door to us who have been in business for decades we even thought about this business. They may even carry more inventory than we do. They may even have more long term loyal customers, but somehow, people still support us. There are many other African Food Markets scattered throughout the bay area and many that crop up and die out just as quickly as they open. I do not take for granted the fact that it is a blessing to be able to wake up everyday to say I am still in business despite all the odds.
Many customers come because of their relationship with “Man Must WaK”, others come because they feel they should support a fellow African who is a small fish in a big sea. Some say, they just like the ambiance, the feeling of being back home they get when they come to shop with us. All in all, I am so grateful that we have been able to survive the most turbulent economic times in recent years. A few days ago, a 73 year old patron came to the store. His hair was completely covered in silver. He was distinguished looking and at first I couldn’t place his place of origin. After I greeted him, he told me he was Nigerian and from the Igbo tribe. He leaned in closer and said to me, “Young Lady, I am so proud of you. I know it’s not easy running this store and raising these young boys (I had my boys with me). But everyone said, you were doomed to fail when your husband died and that your store would fold. I prayed for your success and promised myself, as long as I have breath in me, I would continue to patronize you” I was floored, the words he said, the way he said it, the way he looked in my eyes as he said it, moved my spirit. I took that message as God sent and I thanked him.
I will do my best and continue to grow this little shop that could for as long as I can. Please Continue to support and have your friends support too. You just never know the difference you are making in the lives of so many by the little you do.
Happy New Year! May 2013 be your best year yet!
From Man Must Wak Owner