New Americans have a strong presence in Columbus’ business scene.
There are approximately 9,800 immigrant entrepreneurs living in central Ohio, making up 12% of the region’s business owners and generating nearly $290 billion in business income every year, according to a recent report by New American Economy, a research center based in New York City.
Below is a small sampling of immigrant-owned restaurants, shopping malls and grocery stores in the area.
Report: Immigrants having outsized impact on Columbus-area’s economy
1. Hoyo’s Kitchen
In Somali, “hoyo” means “mother.” Indeed, Abdilahi and Mohamed Hassan opened the first Hoyo’s Kitchen in 2014 inside the North Market in Downtown Columbus to celebrate their mother’s cooking. The restaurant combines authentic Somali flavors with a fast dining experience and allows patrons to pick a bowl, wrap or salad and then add whatever toppings best suit their appetite.
In 2017, the brothers opened a second location in Columbus Square, which is temporarily closed right now. Besides the two restaurants, they also started Hoyo’s Sambusas & Juices as a sister shop in the North Market. The shop sells sambusas — fried pastries wrapped around a filling — and fresh juices.
2. Saraga International Grocery
The immigrant-owned grocery store is perfect for customers who enjoy a variety of international cuisines. It has everything from scallion pancakes and Palestinian-made pomegranate molasses to pre-packaged Cambodian soup and dried chilies from different parts of the world. Every section is labeled by the culture of the food ingredients.
John Sung, the owner of Saraga International Grocery, is an immigrant from South Korea. Prior to expanding into the Columbus market, Sung and his brother opened grocery stores in Bloomington, Indiana, and Indianapolis. Sung said that he picked the name “Saraga” because it means “living” in Korean.
3. The Global Mall
In 2002, Ahmed D. Mohamed, a Somali immigrant, rented a site along Morse Road’s retail corridor on the North Side and started his own shopping mall. The space follows the aesthetics of traditional African markets and is divided into different sections that house individual businesses. Inside the mall, there are dozens of shops selling traditional African gowns, jewelry, perfumes, ceramics as well as restaurants and grocery stores. In some shops, if a customer thinks the prices are too high, it is OK to negotiate.
4. Momo Ghar
Momo Ghar, which means “dumpling house” in Nepali, specializes in made-from-scratch Nepali and Tibetan home-style cooking. The restaurant’s signature dish, jhol momo, features a big bowl of spicy, tomato-flavored sauce and eight dumplings filled with ground chicken, onion and cilantro. Beyond its various dumpling dishes, there’s also Momo Ghar’s classic Tibetan noodle soup called thukpa and a spicy platter called the chicken chhoila set.
The business left its longtime location inside Saraga International Grocery but retains a stall in the North Market in Downtown Columbus, and it has a Dublin location as well.
5. Pita Hut-N-Grille
For more than a decade now, the staff at Pita Hut-N-Grille has been serving affordable Middle Eastern cuisine out of a modest storefront in Clintonville. Lutfi Ayoub, the restaurant’s owner, said he would import spices from Jerusalem in order to deliver the most authentic flavors to customers.
A popular dish to order at Pita Hut-N-Grille is the chicken shawarma –– chicken cutlets that have been marinated in lemon, vinegar and spices. The chicken is available in a pita, along with fries and a drink, for $10.
Yilun Cheng is a Report for America corps member and covers immigration issues for The Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.
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