New Dunedin Market Has Multicultural Appeal
The International Food Mart offers hundreds of different products from dozens of different countries.
Being a high school teacher is not usually a prerequisite for owning a small business.
But it certainly helps when you have the smarts to know what type of business can be successful in a particular area, and also how to sustain that success over a long period of time
For Ghada Abdo, a Palm Harbor resident of Lebanese descent, four years of teaching history at Pinellas Park High might have been the ideal preparation for running her own business. After just one month, her International Food Mart on Overcash Drive is quickly becoming a success, thanks to the area's varied ethnic communities.
Dunedin Patch sat down with Abdo to learn how she came up with the idea for the market, how she selects the items she sells in the store, and what her plans are for the future.
How does a former teacher become a small business owner?
When I was teaching, my boyfriend owned a convenience store, so I became really involved in that. I turned it into a Mexican market because there was a large Latino community in the area. That’s when I really got the fever to open my own store. I had a vision of making this a true international market.
How difficult was it to transition from teacher to businesswoman?
I couldn’t do it without my son, Steven. He is my right-hand man. He is getting his master's degree and runs a travel agency, and he works here in the afternoons and evenings and handles all the marketing.
But I believe there is a desperate need for this. It’s a viable business. So I was confident it would work.
You live in Palm Harbor and taught in Pinellas Park. What made you choose Dunedin as the place to open your market?
I lived in Dunedin for eight years, and I always loved it here. The people and the Chamber are really connected in the community. I did a demographic study of the area to see what it was made up of, culturally, and I found there were good-sized Latino, Asian and German communities, as well as a large Scottish community, so I knew my idea would work here.
You have hundreds of items on your shelves from dozens of countries, including China, Taiwan, India, Germany, Greece and Mexico. How do you select the foods that you sell in the store?
I have two employees who are Chinese, and they have been a big help with the Asian products, like knowing which rices and sauces to bring in. Some of the German items I brought in at the suggestion of a customer. Being Lebanese, I am familiar with Greek and other similar foods.
I am always open to suggestions from people as to what they would like me to bring in, and then I will research if it is viable for me to do it.
How have customers reacted to the business so far?
People love it. It’s clean, friendly, and we carry a lot of products no one else has. Because I don’t have the overhead of a supermarket, I am able to charge much less for my products. I’ve had 100 people tell me that they can’t find the items I have here anywhere else, and definitely not at these prices.
All of the products I carry are authentic and come directly from the countries, except the meats.
What are your plans for the future?
I know there is a big Scottish community, as well as a huge Jewish community, here in Dunedin, so I would like to tap into those markets and bring some of those products in. I am also adding an Asian kitchen in the back, hopefully in time for my grand opening sometime in April.
Eventually I’d love to expand to 10 different stores. But for the time being, I’m going to make this a very successful store. This is my baby.
Address: 1108 Overcash Drive
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday