Mediterranean Deli owner Jamil Kadoura has found a new way to bring a diverse community to the table.
If all goes as planned, Kadoura will open a new Middle Eastern market at 414 W. Franklin St. by October. The space, next to his restaurant, has been vacant since the Time After Time vintage thrift shop closed in March.
Kadoura, 53, finished negotiating the $400,000 deal in June with the Chapel Hill group that has owned the building since 2012. The property, which includes roughly half an acre, has a tax value of $380,200. Kadoura also owns the Dead Mule Club at 303 W. Franklin St. and several other local properties.
Opening the market will be a challenge, Kadoura said, but the fact that Med Deli is an established business with industry partners to whom he can turn for advice is an advantage.
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“I think to me this will be very easy, and I hope it will be,” he said. “I think there are two parts of it. I am very knowledgeable of the products, of course, but the business part of it I have to learn.”
The restaurant has sold a limited number of grocery items for years, but Kadoura said they’ve never had enough shelf space for a true market.
The market will stock a range of Middle Eastern ingredients, from the flavorful Jewish and Arab cuisines of Kadoura’s native West Bank to the more subtle spices of Turkey and Iran. The market also will sell Halal meats – meeting Islamic dietary rules – and could add Kosher meats later, he said.
A deal with restaurant supplier Shaheen Enterprises Inc. will put Med Deli-brand olive oil on the shelves, Kadoura said. The Virginia company imports olive oil from the Al Koura region of Lebanon – the best in the world, he said.
The restaurant can use items that sell poorly or too slowly, he said, and customers will be able to order special items that might not be available locally.
“It’s going to complete the whole picture when you have the bakery, the grocery, you have the Halal meat, you have the deli,” Kadoura said. “I hope my kids will keep it running after I go, because I want it ... to always stay here, because it is very special to me.”
Kadoura was 7 when the Arabs and Israelis fought the Six-Day War in 1967. His family – two wives and 16 children – fled to the mountains, lost its land and was resettled in a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.
In 1982, he immigrated to the United States and studied business management at the Minnesota School of Business. After working his way to the top of the hospitality industry, Kadoura opened Med Deli in 1992.
The restaurant first offered only a few Middle Eastern and Greek specialties that Kadoura developed with his mother Ayshi Qadoura and sister Nabila Hassan. Over the years, he expanded and renovated. Med Deli now has more than 60 items, two bakeries and a catering service that comprises roughly 30 percent of the business.
Kadoura moves around excitedly as he talks about the most recent addition – gluten-free pita bread. He put in long hours for nearly two years to perfect the vegan recipe, one of three brands certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group, he said. Stores across the Triangle are stocking it, he said.
The gluten-free pita is made in a Kosher bakery facility in Med Deli’s basement; the regular pita, made with unbleached, local flour, is produced in a smaller bakery upstairs. Kadoura said the smaller bakery could change slightly during the renovations. A deli case that hugs one side of the restaurant will be extended across the space, and part of a wall between the market and the 150-seat restaurant will be removed for passage.
“I think it’s going to be really, really good. I’m really, really excited,” Kadoura said. “I just got over the excitement of the gluten-free (pita), and now this has come, and it’s heaven to me.”