There are only so many specialty stores in the Detroit that sell goat meat, shea butter and aloe leaves. At African Market in the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood, those products are easier to find.
Located at 21308 West McNichols, African Market has been serving the community for 10 years, offering a number of imported West African goods to the area. The store’s manager, Mohamed Diabate, came to the United States from Ivory Coast in 2000 and started the business to create something for his family.
“I built it,” he says. “All my customers, they know me. I run it. When I came my parents didn’t have anything, so I have to do what I have to do to put some effort to run my business.”
Diabate says there are a lot of other businesses started by Africans in the city, from nations like Nigeria, Liberia and Cameroon. When he first started he had about four competitors in the surrounding community, but his competitors have since closed, leaving the African Market as one of the only stores of its kind in Detroit. His closest competitor is K&F International Market on Nine Mile Road and Coolidge Highway in Royal Oak.
On average, about 1,000 people come into the store per week, primarily African Americans, Diabate says. Most customers visit for the variety of energy and health drinks, fresh meats and cosmetics. He currently has four full-time employees who work at the store.
There has been some difficulty in attracting native Africans to the shop because of the negative stigma of crime in Detroit, but Diabate says he’s devoted to the community and has earned its support.
“I started this business in Detroit,” Diabate says. “I don’t worry about people and people don’t worry about me. Nobody steals from me. I have great customer service. I’m a good businessman and everyone likes my service.”
Umoren Umoren, an African Market customer, says he’s known Diabate since 2010. He calls the store a one-stop shop.
“It has real good African stuff, everything that we use to cook … and the meat is always fresh,” he says..
Diabate has a cool personality and is very dedicated to the business he runs, Umoren says. He says Diabate makes sure the business is moving in the direction it needs to go.
“As far as the customers, he makes sure every demand of the customers are being met,” Umoren says. “That consistency in the business makes it worth going to shop there.”
Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.