Afro Deli is a bustling hub of community activity on the University of Minnesota's West Bank. A diverse population of diners convene daily to take advantage of the fragrant, generously portioned, and delicious pan-African cuisine, branded to appeal to an American palate. They've recently opened a successful second location in downtown St. Paul.
But despite its one-of-a-kind food, public and financial success, and accolades, Afro Deli is in jeopardy of closing its Minneapolis shop.
The restaurant is a tenant of the African Development Center (ADC), an organization that provides training, lending, and technical assistance to guide African immigrants and refugees in Minnesota to economic prosperity.
Afro Deli owner Abdirahman Kahin says he has been the "poster child" of the organization for many years, even recently representing at President Obama's State of the Union as an example of immigrant success and entrepreneurship.
But according to the Star Tribune, relations between Kahin and the ADC have deteriorated since the death of its executive director, Hussein Samatar, in 2013. Kahin says that he and Samatar had negotiated incorporation papers and renovation agreements that are now in dispute by Samatar's successor Nasibu Sareva.
Sareva claims that Kahin is not in fact the owner of Afro Deli, but instead a general manager, and that he owes the ADC $120,000 for a loan that included city money. Afro Deli's lease, which Kahin negotiated with Samatar, expired in December. The relationship between Sareva and Kahin began to deteriorate when their lease went month-to-month, and Kahin stopped sharing financial information with Sareva. Sareva says he plans to evict Afro Deli if they cannot agree to Sareva's terms.
Sareva's demands for the $120,000 coincide with sliding revenue at the ADC. Kahin has brought the matter to his lawyers, but the restaurant will likely close at the end of the month if they are unable to settle their dispute.
And that would be a terrible thing for all of us.
1939 S. 5th St., Minneapolis