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Northern Lights Pharmacy in Columbus, OH

Chris Ressa sitting at a desk, talking into a microphone
Episode #: 160
Northern Lights Pharmacy in Columbus, OH

Guest: Muhammad Ahmed
Topics: Healthcare, restaurant industry


Chris Ressa 0:00
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I am joined by Muhammad Ahmed Mohammed is the owner of stuffiness cafe in Columbus, Ohio, welcome to the show, Muhammad.

Muhammad Ahmed 0:30
I’m glad to be here. Thank you, Chris.

Ressa 0:33
So Muhammad, tell us a little bit about who you are. And, and your business.

Ahmed 0:39
Oh, my name is Mohammed. And the way we got started with Sophia is Cafe actually was actually let me make it into a short story. So So Venus cafe was was looking to Monty which is She’s a cook so she’s been doing cooking in her home for a while now. And so me and her we was thinking, you know, to find a location which I came across, you know, on on the internet so, and a friend of mine that I knew actually here who used to be at the same location was the pit and I guess he was moving on to a new location and we kind of acquired this location where he was at at the moment.

Ressa 1:25
And and what type of restaurant is subpoenas Cafe

Ahmed 1:28
is ethnic, mostly Somali cuisine or East African cuisine. You know, I don’t know if you heard a lot of people know about the same BUSA Sure. Yeah.

Ressa 1:40
And for everyone out there, I know about the Eastern African cuisine restaurants with Venus Cafe because Mohammed is attending in a DLC shopping center. Right. And how long have you had this cafe?

Ahmed 1:56
For a year now? Yes.

Ressa 1:59
What did you do before this business venture?

Ahmed 2:02
I was in the health care industry more in a home health care, or working with people with developmental disability? A lot of people they know that home health care is kind of broad in terms on on the people that you serve. You know, but me in general, I was focusing on the developmental disability aspect of the homecare business.

Ressa 2:27
Was it your own business, or did you work for someone else?

Ahmed 2:30
It was my own. I started with a friend actually, me and my friend. We used to work. I used to be a microbiologist working for LabCorp. We met over there, me and my friend and we decided to start the developmental disability.

Ressa 2:47
So you are just a serial entrepreneur.

Ahmed 2:50
That’s correct. Excellent. Yes, sir.

Ressa 2:53
All right, Muhammad. I want to bring us to the part of the show called Clear the air. I’ve got three questions for you. Are you ready? I’m ready. Okay. Question one. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Ahmed 3:08
When was the last time that I did for the first time? It was when I was in middle school, you know, because I was. I started playing soccer. I mean, baseball, not soccer, baseball. You know, that was my first time in my list because I baseball was kind of new to me. You know, it was a new sport. And growing up, I came, you know, I’ve never been introduced to baseball game. So that was kind of interesting, you know, wearing the helmet and actually didn’t know how to move when the ball was coming at you. So I got hit multiple times. And the coach actually, you said some this is not your sport.

Ressa 3:58
Well, I imagine you’ve tried some other things for the first time since baseball, but obviously that one made an impact on you. Where did you grow up? You mentioned growing up. You weren’t introduced to it. Where did you grew up?

Ahmed 4:12
I grew up in South Dakota. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Yes. I came the United States in 1997 by the end of 1997. And as a refugee and been relocated to South Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Ressa 4:27
Wow. Where were you a refugee from? from Somalia. Wow. Can we talk about that for a minute? How did you end up getting over to America

Ahmed 4:36
through the UN or the United Nation program, which was run by the US in Kenya. So when the Civil War happened? There was a refugee camp that was placed in Kenya and we was there for approximately I don’t I’m not I can’t remember as my dad told me it was like probably two or three years the so we went to we had To go through biometrics and get tested and went through paperwork, you know, background check before we got here.

Ressa 5:08
And how old were you at the time when you talk to him? I

Ahmed 5:10
think I was between eight I think eight years old, if I’m not mistaken, is

Ressa 5:14
that that’s incredible. So, refugee came here, ended up in Sioux Falls. How did you become a microbiologist?

Ahmed 5:26
I went to Ohio State University, the Ohio State University. I went, Yeah, the Ohio State. So I first started at Columbus community college at Columbus State. So then I was interested in science, you know, took a lot of chemistry courses, then I was like, Oh, let me try microbiology was which I was interested in science, you know, as a young age. So that kind of took me to do microbiology, and then

Ressa 5:58
you ended up working for LabCorp. And then you became a serial entrepreneur. I mean, truly an incredible story. Okay. Let’s go to the next questions. What is one skill you don’t possess? But wish you did?

Ahmed 6:16
Oh, swimming,

Ressa 6:19
you can’t swim? No, I cannot. You got to take swimming lessons. We have a lot of swim schools in our shopping centers, maybe we need to pretty much hit the one year end, but you need to learn to swim.

Ahmed 6:34
Good. That’s the That’s one aspect then riding a horse? You know, horse? That’s the second. You know, I wish I did.

Ressa 6:43
Very interesting. Last question, what is one thing most people agree with, but you do not this

Ahmed 6:51
interesting? Because most people are just kind of a little bit hard question. You know, because

Ressa 6:59
I can’t give you only the layups.

Ahmed 7:04
I will say, I mean, there’s quite a few things, you know, most people agree. On, I think most people agree on the day to day job, like persisting a job, or job security. Is that so me? I, I don’t agree on that. I think job security. It can have an impact, you know, if let me put it this way. Like a lot of people believe in having one job. And I this agree, or job security, as they call it? Why? Because I think individual should be, you know, entrepreneur and expand the knowledge, you know, right across, basically open their mindset to different job opportunities or anything else, because a lot of people are, let me just say closed minded, basically, they don’t want to have fear. You know, I think that kinda they don’t want to really do anything, or they think, Okay, I’m still you know, I am okay. You know, I’m doing just one thing. I think, a lot of people they don’t have, they don’t believe in that they have a lot of skills. Does that make sense? Sure. Anything that they want to, but that’s why a lot of people. They think, Oh, why is this individual have what he has, but they don’t understand that anybody can have anything they desire. There’s just they didn’t make that extra step. You know?

Ressa 8:45
I mean, you’re living proof, right? You came from a refugee camp. That’s ended up at one of the most prestigious universities in America. Squirt, became a microbiologist, and now you’re a serial entrepreneur. So kudos to you. And I think you’re living proof that people can be anything they want to be. That’s correct. Yep. Okay. So I think this is an interesting one, people will probably think that the whole episode would be about subpoenas cafe and we’ll get more into subpoenas Cafe but but one of the interesting things is DLC launched a tenant referral program. And you referred one of your friends, yes, to open a business in a DLC shopping center. And you had a friend who recently opened a pharmacy in the shopping center where you are a tenant. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about that story and how that came to be

Ahmed 9:47
okay, that story came to be you. First of all this guy. He came to try our food. He came to our restaurant to try the food so I mean him. He was talking and he told me that he knew my father, my father. So I didn’t know him. But he knew my father. So I was Oh, interesting. And he’s been in in the city of Columbus for years. I guess we was in the same time came probably same timeframe, but the refugee and all that. So you knew my father that way. And so he was saying that he had a pharmacy, somewhere in another location. So and I told him, Hey, I said, once you open a pharmacy, where we’re at, because it looks like, you know, is quite a few places available and this area is so when i Yeah, so when I told him, I want you to open that location. So he said, I have another location. So then I brought him to show him the area, me and him, we actually show I showed him that area, then he was interested. He said, I’m interested in the location, can you please call or referred me? I said, Okay. But then I talked to Miss Emily, I think she’s one of the general managers at the PSO. And she’s she actually said, Hey, we have a referral program. And, you know, so that’s how I actually signed him. And he likes the location. You know, he seen what the traffic and is an excellent location. So that’s where he actually was interested in. Yeah, that’s an

Ressa 11:37
incredible story. I think the first thing that’s fascinating is he was also a refugee. And because there’s a larger Somali population in this part of Columbus, correct? That’s, that’s correct, sir. Yes. And so and you guys had this connection, family connection, and you were able to recruit him to open up a location in the shopping center, which will hopefully help you because more people will come to the shopping center and more traffic to the property, and obviously helps us and we know, we have a referral program. So we’re able to get you into our DLC tenant referral program, and a real win win. totally fascinating story. Really appreciate it. And it is wild that Northern Lights pharmacy ended up in a shopping center. And this is very, for everyone out there. This is very recent. This is in the last 12 months this has happened. So tell us a little bit more about so you can get a plug. And people if they’re in Columbus, they can come find you tell us a little bit more about stuffiness cafe,

Ahmed 12:48
Sofia’s Cafe is first of all is in a great location. And second, the way we actually design inside is more kind of traditional and kind of has that vibe of welcoming, you know, so when we actually serve individuals, we I mean, you know, it’s different because the difference is like when you go to an American restaurant or any other restaurant, I think a lot kind of cafe you have to pay first, if that makes sense. But here, wherever the customer is, he has to sit down. We bring him you know, couple of appetizers once he eats then he pays so he doesn’t pay first before trying you know

Ressa 13:42
so like if I go to like Panera or Starbucks, I pay then they give me the drink or the food. You don’t have that.

Ahmed 13:51
No, no you have to taste or you know and

Ressa 13:55
what and I know it’s Eastern African cuisine. Give everybody a little flavor what that actually means what type of food is served in your restaurants

Ahmed 14:04
is basically like Italian let me a lot of people that don’t know that Somali was colonized by Italian. So and the food is more like pasta we have pasta we have Alfredo you know, we have a lot of cuisines that pretend to like Italian you know interesting.

Ressa 14:26
Anything that what is What’s your specialty dish?

Ahmed 14:31
Especially we have Salman and pasta. You know, Sam BUSA we have as an appetizer which is filled with vegetables and or beef. Or, you know, fish.

Ressa 14:44
Why don’t you tell everyone what Sambu says

Ahmed 14:47
stem BUSA is it’s like a triangular shaped house. You know if inside is vegetables, you know, you can have veggies or you can have beans inside is like a roll, like egg roll, basically. But it’s a triangular shaped. You know?

Ressa 15:09
They’re very cool. Yes. I’ve had it before. So yes, yes. And it’s it’s very, very good food. And if you’re in Columbus everyone checkout Safina It’s okay. Yes. Well, everyone, that’s the story of how Northern Lights pharmacy ended up at Northern Lights shopping center. Mohamed, I want to take us to the last part of the show. I got three fun questions. Are you ready? Yes. All right. Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Ahmed 15:39
I will say. I mean, he’s JC Penney did

Ressa 15:44
not totally No, no, not totally.

Ahmed 15:48
Retail. I really don’t remember any retail there’s

Ressa 15:53
was there like a favorite store that’s no longer in business in Sioux Falls or something like that?

Ahmed 16:02
Really is right now most of the retail stores that I shop is the same retail stores. So it’s kind of hard for me to determine what’s your favorite store? My favorite store? It has to be close calls. The reason is because they have kids, you know, young kids and they like the areas. It’s like family kinda it feels the family oriented and it’s not big. It’s easy to get in, find what you need and get out. You know,

Ressa 16:35
perfect. Okay. What’s the last product over $20 bought in a store? I will say headphones. What kind of headphones get

Ahmed 16:44
started with a JB? I think it was for my son actually. yesterday. Yeah. Last night at Walmart.

Ressa 16:50
Perfect. Okay. How old are you kids?

Ahmed 16:55
My son actually, long story. I got married way early. That’s a tradition. For a lot of me for where I’m from, you know what? Somebody’s part. So my son. He’s 10 years old. He’s turning 11. Excellent. What’s his name? Ali.

Ressa 17:13
Ali. Okay. Last question. Mohammed. If you and I were shopping at Target, yes. And I lost you. What I would I find you in?

Ahmed 17:26
I will say the the clothing area, the clothing for men. activewear.

Ressa 17:34
Yep. Perfect. Okay. Before we end, just give everyone a little flavor hat over the last year. Yes, pandemic and everything go on has business been at Sofia’s cafe.

Ahmed 17:46
It’s been actually excellent. We kind of adapted to a lot of people, you know, when we once we opened was, you know, in that your timeframe, but it was kind of difficult. A lot of people were inside home, but we kind of posted in social media and people were actually coming out. And that kind of brought more more customers to us, I believe. Because when stuff was kind of, you know, you know, in a pandemic, yeah, went down. And a lot of people actually want to start we’re searching. So as they started calling us, they’re saying that, hey, do you guys do delivery? So we actually hired individual to deliver in the home because we weren’t, we didn’t have like Grub Hub, or, you know, those delivery apps at that moment because we was new, you know, so we just hired an individual to deliver foods to customer homes and whatnot, which kind of brought a lot of people to come and try our food actually.

Ressa 18:51
Got it. And is it more of a lunch spot dinner spot? Tell everybody?

Ahmed 18:57
I will say we have we just added breakfast. Mostly it was lunch and dinner at first, but we just recently had breakfast. Yeah.

Ressa 19:05
Excellent. How’s breakfast going?

Ahmed 19:07
This is picking up slowly. But it’s going good. What is Eastern African breakfast food. East African breakfast food is simple. I will say we serve ground beef or round shirt or beef with on the side of I will say like lettuce and we serve omelet, you know, on the sandwich and usually you can have you know, ground beef, shredded ground beef or liver. Interesting. Yep,

Ressa 19:45
yep. Okay. Well, listen, Muhammad, you’re busy guy. I really appreciate you taking the time today. Thank you so much. And keep rockin in your restaurant man.

Ahmed 19:58
I also wanted to let you know one thing One more thing. Sure. Um, we started flea market actually on in Columbus, one of the largest flea market. Wow, this Yes, sir cool. This is called international search and one of their most ethnic spots in Columbus they just recently opened so

Ressa 20:23
congratulations man. Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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