Holy Land brand spreads culture

July 31, 2008

1987 Wajdi Wadi opened a little 800 square foot Halal grocery store on
Central Ave. in Minneapolis. He had come from Kuwait to Moorhead State
University where he graduated with a degree in Finance and Marketing in

Over the years the face of what would become the “Holy
Land” brand has changed but not the drive behind it. The Holy Land
Website describes the company thus, “The history of Holy Land is the
story of a dream. A dream that has been realized using the principles
of hard work, family, tradition and Islam as its cornerstones. The
families dream began over 100 years ago with Grandfather Abu Saeed. He
brought to the dream the time tested recipe of making pita bread.”

is an ethnic Palestinian. His passion for his culture runs deep and
drives the company. “I don’t want you to just come and eat, I want to
share my culture through my food. . .I want to give my customers a feel
of the Middle East, this is the story of Holy Land.”

Holy Land has two locations, the original at 2513 Central Ave and one
in the Mid-Town Global Market at Chicago and Lake. In addition to his
groceries, each location has a restaurant. The “Holy Land” brand also
has a bakery on Washington Ave. in Minneapolis (soon to move to 1617
Central) and produces enough hummus (a Middle Eastern garbanzo bean
spread) and other salads and dips to keep the local community well
stocked through Cub, Kowalski’s, Whole Foods and all the natural foods

Wadi obviously takes pride in the quality of his
foods. His meat products— beef, goat, lamb and chicken are all 100%
natural, farm raised, anti-biotic and hormone free. “It’s almost
organic but then I would have to charge the customers more,” Wadi
explained “I want to offer quality foods at regular prices.” Wadi added
that his goal and promise is to offer his selections at 25-35% cheaper
then “big chain stores.”

But even the big chain stores cannot
offer the same selection. The produce selection is a sight to behold.
Customers can buy fresh almonds for $1.79/ lb., fresh green garbanzos,
figs, cherries and cucumbers in varieties hard to find here. “There is
a huge demand for our produce.” Currently Holy Land is contracting
directly with growers in California to supply the types of produce
typical for Middle Eastern cuisine.

This drive and attention
to detail has made Holy Land a success, “We have expanded beyond the
Middle Eastern, Muslim community.” Stop by at any meal time and it is
obvious that the stores have a diverse customer base. In a recent
survey 66% of customers are American. Often the people who come to
Central Ave. from outside the area come specifically for Holy Land.

sales expected to reach $12 million this year Wadi has been rewarded
for his dedication and hard work, but still the drive to give back runs
deep. In a 3 part expansion project Wadi will add a new Hummus factory
that will create another 25 jobs (to his already 120 employees). Next
to the factory he has purchased a run down house that will be torn down
and a new community room be set up. This will include banquet
facilities (that may be rented out) a play room and possibly a library
and senior space.

Bordering Holy Land on Lowry Wadi has also
purchased 4 run down houses that will be torn down and replaced with 32
units of mid-level housing with retail space on the ground floor. “The
stores will reflect Holy Land,” Wadi said, “I want to give the feel of
the Middle East.”

In his new restaurant, each table has a
story about a specific aspect or place in Middle Eastern Culture. But
his love of culture also spreads to his adopted culture. “We became the
first bakery to export bread to the Far East.” He explained that on his
promotion trips distributors didn’t know where Minnesota was. “When I
came home I completely changed my bread bag.” Now the bag says, “Made
in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.” On the back
of the bag Wadi features information about Minnesota including the
explore Minnesota website. “I am introducing Minnesota to the world.”

those who haven’t yet tried Holy Land stop by the International Market
at the State Fair. “This is the first year we’ll be there. People wait
years to get in but they [State Fair Committee] approached us.”

a special feature you’ll want to check out in the new on-line ordering
for lunch and dinner that includes take out or delivery, anywhere in
the state of Minnesota www.holylandbrand.com