Kenmore’s Al-Salam Offers a Taste of Home for the Buffalo Area’s Refugees and Immigrants

Al-Salam, a specialty grocery story, is tucked away off Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore. If you didn’t know it was there you could drive right past it since there are no bright lights or fancy displays. Even when you walk in, it looks like pretty much every convenience store. But on these shelves are items you can’t easily get anyplace else and that’s what makes it unique. They are stocked with everything rare Indian spices to a unique cheese. It’s a taste of home for many. 

Mohamed Lamin has been running Al-Salam, which means “and unto you peace in Arabic, for the past three months. He says he wanted to bring something to Buffalo that was unique and that immigrants could relate to. “We have almost 7,000 people here in Buffalo from overseas. Some of them when they come, [and you] know we have a lot of students [here in Buffalo], and when they come and they see something from their country, it’s like seeing heaven,” said Lamin.

Lamin himself came from West Africa and knows the challenges that come with being an immigrant. Escaping problems and a hard life in his country was not easy but, like so many, he had a dream of having a better life and a drive to succeed.

“It’s tough everywhere but there are a lot more tough things [as an immigrant]. Like when you arrive you, do not speak English and it’s difficult and very tough to start. At least here you have three things, the three main things in life. One is the justice, second is the opportunity and you have everything else God can give you. Money can come and go,’ said Lamin.

Photo by Yelp user Pablo K.

In his store there is literally something for everyone. One aisle has canned goods. Others have women’s clothing and spices. In a quaint corner of the store, tables are set up where people can order hot or cold food from a menu. The chef cooks up your order in minutes in a state-of-the-art kitchen. Lamin says there is no real order to the store and he says it was done that way on purpose.

“We have all international products, we have Turkish products, we have Middle Eastern products, mixed international items,” he said.

The mix of products and uniqueness of the store is attracting people from all over. Wafa Dubashi, who is Saudi Arabian, had to travel to the West Side to get the delicious food she loves. But thanks to the new restaurant being so close in Kenmore, all that driving is now a thing of the past.

“It’s good to see something different here, so all the races of people can try something new,” said Dubashi.

Hot or cold, the store hopes to bring a taste of home to immigrants who are needing a home cooked meal. As for non-immigrants, Lamin is hoping people will try something they never had before. “This store we have stuff you cannot find at Walmart, Kenmore or any American store. We have a kitchen [and] we cook Middle Eastern food, chicken shawarma, fattoush salad, lamb with rice and many more things on the menu,” he said.

The store, at 1615 Kenmore Ave in Kenmore, is open Monday- Sunday from 11am to 9pm.

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