BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Even before Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, community members were already shopping for groceries at the new Al-Aqsa supermarket and restaurant on 1350 Fillmore Avenue.
"In this store, right on my right hand [side] are fresh fruits and vegetables. Which are very much needed in our community," said Darius Pridgen, President of the Buffalo Common Council.
Co-owners Talha Baktah and Mohammed Hasnat invested around $2 million into the market, and say they'll invest one million dollars more as they grow.
Baktah said this will help revitalize the east side, while also connecting this community to higher quality food. That’s the focus here. What you will not find for sale at Al-Aqsa – alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.
"It feels like a dream come true. It feels like now our dream has come to fruition. We're ready to serve the community, it feels good to knowing that we are able to give and provide quality food for everyone that lacking in this neighborhood," said Baktah.
It did all start as a dream when Baktah went to the Common Council with the idea of better serving his neighborhood.
"This man brought me to this site when it was empty, and he told me about his dreams and what he was going to do, and how it would be state-of-the-art. And how it was not going to be a deli, but it was going to serve the needs of people," said council member Pridgen.
Pastor Dwayne Jones, who has worked for years to bring grocery stores into areas considered food deserts, said more supermarkets are needed on the city’s East Side
"One supermarket cannot sustain the need for the east side. We have to have two to three like other neighborhoods," he said.
The immigrant-owned business is one of the largest independent food markets in this part of the city.
"We'd like to really serve the community's real needs, so we had a pretty long mission to make a supermarket as great as possible," Hasnat.