When taking a stroll through West Harlem, you may notice the lack of convenient access to affordable and healthy food options. Although the community is plagued by health problems that include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, there aren’t many establishments to aide in counteracting these issues.
Inspired by the absence of healthy alternatives and the needs of the community, entrepreneur Adbulsalam Abajebel opened up Oasis Jimma Juice Bar. Meet Me Uptown caught up with Abajebel to chat about what inspired him to open his business, the ever-changing landscape of the Harlem community, and benefits of the various juices and smoothies that he provides.
Meet Me Uptown: Where are you originally from? When did you move to the U.S.?
Adbulsalam Abajebel: I’m originally from East Africa. I’m from East Ethiopia. I came to the U.S. in 2004.
Meet Me Uptown: How has your culture had an influence on your business?
Adbulsalam Abajebel: The Ethiopian culture is very multi-cultural. When it comes to the culture’s cuisine we have a variety of different recipes, many of which have been passed down from generation to generation. I want to keep those recipes and traditions alive through my business. We use a lot of fruits and vegetables and a lot of raw ingredients.
MMU: What inspired you to open your juice bar?
AA: I’ve always dreamt of having my own business. I’ve been living in Harlem for a while, and I’ve noticed that in my neighborhood there aren’t really any healthy options. There are a lot of fast food restaurants in the area, but there is a lack of healthy eateries. There are a lot of health problems that are prevalent in my neighborhood, like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other issues. I wanted to help the community through opening my business.
MMU: What impact do you think your business has on the community?
AA: This is the only fresh and organic juice bar in the neighborhood. Being the only establishment that provides healthy alternatives in the community speaks volumes to the impact that we are having in West Harlem. Every day we have community residents that stop by to learn more about the products that we serve and how they can work towards living a healthier lifestyle through what we offer.
MMU: What do you find most challenging about running a business?
AA: The most challenging thing about running my business is the fact that we are a very small establishment. We just opened our doors last November and we get a lot of our customers through word of mouth or people passing by. Right now we’re focused on expanding our reach.
MMU: Harlem has experienced an influx of chain businesses, how do you think that has changed the landscape of the neighborhood?
AA: I think the addition of these large chain businesses isn’t helpful for the community. Many corporate companies only think about what benefits them, they don’t really take they community into consideration. It’s sad when small businesses that have been well received by the community are pushed out.
MMU: Summer is right around the corner and a lot of people are starting to get their summer bodies ready. What are three drinks on your menu that you would recommend for weight loss?
AA: We have three different categories on our menu; we have regular juices, smoothies, and our health juice pharmacy. The drinks that are a part of our health juice pharmacy pertain to specific needs. There are drinks for hydration, weight loss, muscle gain and many other things.
MMU: What advice would you give to an inspiring restaurateur?
AA: I would encourage them to really focus on building their community outreach once they have established their business. It’s not only about making profit; it’s about building relationships and providing the community with what they need.
On Sunday, May 12th, swing by Oasis Jimma Juice Bar at 3163 Broadway for a free juice sampling event. The event, which will be held from 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, will feature nutritionists that will share the benefits of the smoothies and juices featured on the Oasis Jimma Juice Bar menu.
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