Visit any of the mainstream grocery stores in Bowling Green people use to stock their refrigerators and cabinets. Which ever one you pick it’s sure to have aisles and aisles of food and other items you find appealing. However, what if you eat according to certain rules? I don’t mean avoiding the powdered donuts, because you’re trying to drop a few pounds. I’m talking about rules or customs from your religion or culture? Would your favorite grocery store carry the things you need if you were from the Middle East or Southwest Asia? Where would you buy your food?
This is the case for Muslims who eat according to Halal, which means to honor Islamic rites and rules. Ghazwan Nahedh and his friends decided to do just that. “The area was in need of an international store,” said Ghazwan, an Iraqi refugee. “We found it a good opportunity.”
Nahedh, who used to teach physics at a university in Iraq, came to Bowling Green two years ago. The Bowling Green International Center helped Nahedh with his paperwork and resettlement. “Then from there I took care of myself,” said Nahedh. Nahedh worked in factories shortly after arriving. From there he and his friends decided to start a business that would cater to people looking for a piece of home. Together they shop as far away as Nashville, Tennessee and Michigan for diverse products.
Although Nahedh appreciates the opportunities in Bowling Green and America, he still misses his home. He hopes to return to Iraq someday if the issues with Al Qaeda can be resolved.
Nahedh smiles for a picture taken in his International Grocery Story on Russellville road across from Kids on the Block.
Ghazwan Nahedh works the register at the International Grocery Store. His store caters to the diverse tastes of Bowling Green.
Talented designer Wesal Muhi, who goes by Emmy, has been working and living in Bowling Green for four years ever since the International Center helped her move from Iraq.
However, her experience reaches back much further than four years. Muhi worked as a seamstress in Iraq for 30 years before moving to America. She says her family, specifically her mother and grandmother, were instrumental in her training. They showed her how to measure with only her hands. “I know what size you are just by looking at you,” she said.
I’m a designer,” Muhi said. Muhi crafts custom dresses at Noor’s Alterations at 1027 Broadway, across the street from Taco Bell. “I design party dresses, bridle dresses, prom dresses,” Muhi said. “I have big students discounts.” Wesal Muhi often designs dresses for Muslim women and girls who aren’t able to easily find good clothing elsewhere in Bowling Green.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 84,902 Iraqi refugees have arrived in the United States to start new lives.
When I asked Muhi if she overcame any challenges she said the International Center made things a lot easier. “The difficult part is the language,” Muhi said. Muhi holds down another job at Duke’s Sporting Goods. Between running her business and her second job, Muhi struggles to find time to take more English classes.
I asked Muhi what she likes most about her business. “I like all my business,” she said. “You have to love your job.”
If you are interested in learning more please call Emmy at (270-320-4976).
Dresses placed on a rack at Noor’s Alterations. Wesal Muhi, who goes by Emmy, designed these dresses herself.
Emmy tightens shoulder straps on a dress she’s working on. Emmy says you have to be careful with the fabric since it isn’t easy to work with.
Emmy fires up her sewing machine and goes to work on a dress.
Emmy carefully works with her sewing machine.
Emmy snips with her scissors at the fabric she is using to make another dress.
Emmy often makes custom dresses for local Muslim girls and women, providing a service that’s hard to come by in Bowling Green.
Emmy is done with the top of the dress a girl has requested. She says you have to make the top part first.
A piece of fabric stretches out on Emmy’s work table. Emmy will use the rest to make the bottom cover and sleeves of the dress.
Emmy uses her one of her tools, a measuring tape, to measure the dimensions of the bottom half.
Emmy tears a piece of fabric with her scissors. Amy says that people are afraid of her huge scissors.
Emmy measures a sleeve she is preparing. “My mother and grandmother taught me to use my hands to measure.”
The bottom half, top half and sleeves rest neatly on Emmy’s work table.