Windham – It’s a new day at Windham’s grocery store. It’s got a new name, a new owner and a new future, but it’s here to stay for the sake of the community.
So says Ali Salama, independent owner of Windham Supermarket at 9670 East Center Street. Salama is in the process of purchasing the former Windham Sparkle Market from Maruf Awad, who had owned and operated the neighborhood grocery store since 1982.
“Everybody loves Maruf but he has health problems and he needed to retire,” Salama says. I am allowing him to do that.”
For the past month, Salama has been negotiating deals with new suppliers, cleaning, restocking shelves, remodeling… “I am not completely ready, but I’m open!” Salama wants people to know. “I am working hard. So please come and shop. Just be patient as this process takes time.” The grocery store is open 8am-8pm daily.
Salama, 37, is originally from Bethlehem, Palestine. He emigrated to the U.S. 10 years ago after living in Germany for a period of time. He became a U.S. citizen in 2013. Although he had studied social work at Jerusalem University, he realized he would have to start his schooling all over again in the U.S. to pursue that career. So he became a businessman, first helping his father to operate a store in Cleveland, then purchasing his own convenience store in East Liverpool, which he still owns and operates.
Salama is planning to move from East Liverpool to Windham, so he can be part of the local community, not just part of the economy. “I like it here,” he says. “This is a nice, small community and people are so friendly here. They depend on this store and all the businesses that surround it. Closing stores in this town would turn this into a ghost town. We don’t want that to happen. That’s why I’m doing my best. I see opportunity here which will benefit everybody.”
As an independent store owner, Salama says he doesn’t have to purchase food from suppliers dictated by a big corporation. “Since I am on my own, it’s my option to lower the prices. I call the shots, name my price and get better deals from more suppliers.”
Ali Salama has big dreams for his new grocery store in his new community. “In Palestine, it feels like you’re in a volcano ready to explode. Here I feel like I am human and I have a future.”