Manchester’s hardest neighborhood might be one of the best place to start out a enterprise
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Manchester’s hardest neighborhood might be one of the best place to start out a enterprise

Manchester’s hardest neighborhood might be one of the best place to start out a enterprise
Amjad Rana, at his retailer, Seven Days Market, in Manchester. He has owned this retailer for 18 years. Picture/Allegra Boverman

Editor’s notice: This text is one other installment of “Invisible Partitions,” an ongoing joint undertaking of the Granite State Information Collaborative, NH Enterprise Evaluation and Enterprise NH Journal that describes how exclusionary zoning legal guidelines have strengthened areas of persistent poverty, impacting many elements of neighborhood life, together with crime, public well being, reasonably priced housing and entry to financial alternative in Manchester. The group used Manchester as a case research, however the identical kinds of exclusionary zoning practices current in Manchester are frequent throughout the state, and sure have had equally broad results.



There’s a piece of Manchester, Heart Metropolis, formed by historical past and perpetuated by vested property pursuits, that isn’t like surrounding communities. It’s the place Amoskeag’s unskilled laborers, usually new immigrants, discovered their first foothold in tenement housing 150 years in the past and the place in the present day’s zoning legal guidelines stand like invisible partitions to consolidate the town’s lowest-income residents.

This a part of the town, to the south of Bridge Avenue, east of Elm, west of Maple and north of Valley, is the place multi-family residential continues to be permitted, whereas the remainder of the town has largely gone single-family. Consequently, it’s additionally the place essentially the most reasonably priced flats might be discovered and the place a number of the social issues related to low-income neighborhoods, reminiscent of homelessness and drug-related crime, appear to be consolidated.

And whereas some look to different elements of the town to start out their enterprise, there are entrepreneurs that discover Heart Metropolis fertile floor to develop their enterprise. Those who select to open store right here have a novel alternative, not solely to faucet into an neglected market, however to spur the betterment of the neighborhood round them.

Foot Visitors Fuels Market

Amjad Rana runs a comfort retailer, Seven Days Market, on Union Avenue. He’s owned it since 2005 and bought it after relocating to Manchester from Milford. At the moment, the enterprise was failing, and Rana noticed alternative. “From my expertise, I noticed the potential of this retailer,” Rana says. He figured he might flip it round, “and I did it…. We do good right here.”

What Rana noticed was a retailer embedded in a neighborhood with substantial foot visitors. That instructed him that the residents of the neighborhood most likely didn’t have the choice of doing their purchasing on the grocery retailer. They rely upon companies reminiscent of Seven Days Market. “That’s the key of the comfort retailer,” Rana says.

Amjad Rana, proprietor of Seven Days Market in Manchester, stated that for a enterprise like his, the Union Avenue neighborhood is one of the best place to function. Picture/Adam Drapcho photograph)


There are issues, reminiscent of loitering within the alley subsequent to his store, and theft. He often loses round $500 in merchandise every month to shoplifters. Nearly all of his clients, although, are pleasant, and he says 9 out of 10 are on a first-name foundation, often calling him by his nickname, “Sonny.”

Alex Horton noticed her alternative whereas nonetheless a enterprise pupil at Saint Anselm Faculty in Manchester. “As I spent extra time in Saint A’s, I didn’t see any espresso outlets open late for college students, or sit-down locations to do your work,” she says.

On the time, the downtown space had some boarded-up storefronts and different sights that may have turned different entrepreneurs away. Horton had come to know the neighborhood, although, and noticed chance the place others noticed challenges.

“I had this sense that it was an up-and-coming space,” she says. She opened Cafe la Reine, promoting espresso drinks, sandwiches and acai bowls, in 2013 on Elm Avenue. “2019 was our busiest yr ever, 2020 was about to be even busier, so I feel that I selected accurately,” Horton says. She’s planning to open a second location this yr. Horton grew up in Methuen, Mass. and says she was stunned to search out that clients who aren’t used to metropolis life are discouraged by an absence of close by parking. The presence of individuals experiencing homelessness can create a fragile state of affairs, as her clients need to assist folks in want, however an act of charity can result in that particular person occupying a desk for hours. “It snowballs into one thing the client didn’t imply to occur,” Horton says, including {that a} extra lasting answer could be to help the efforts of the town’s homelessness initiatives.

Horton continues to see the town as a dynamic place of alternative, significantly as some employees return to their places of work.

Omar Abouzaid along with his spouse Ibtisam Azri and two of their three kids, Houria Abouzaid, 10, and Reda Abouzaid, 5. Lacking from the photograph is their oldest son Yasser Abouzaid, 12. They personal Al Basha Mediterranean Grill in Manchester for 2 years, and a retailer subsequent to it which they’re renovating. Picture/Allegra Boverman.


The pandemic was a difficult time for Omar Abouzaid and his spouse, Ibtisam Azri, supervisor and proprietor, respectively, of Al Basha Mediterranean Grill. Each immigrants from Morocco, Azri and Abouzaid met whereas grasp’s college students at Southern NH College. Abouzaid started skilled life as a company accountant, however when the time got here for them to start out a household, they determined to turn out to be entrepreneurs in addition to mother and father.

They opened Al Basha on Valley Avenue, the place they discovered house for each a meals preparation enterprise and an adjoining specialty market. The placement provided “publicity on a busy road, plus huge house, and it was reasonably priced to us,” Abouzaid says. It’s one of many busiest streets within the metropolis, plus there are a number of parking areas for patrons.

But, they knew success was not assured. “I lived in Manchester for 22 years; I can’t keep in mind a enterprise that lasted greater than six months,” at that location, Abouzaid says. “However we stated, we’ll take our likelihood, and we’ll make it work. While you come as an immigrant, it’s a must to make it work. There isn’t any ‘State of affairs B’.”

It took adaptability to outlive. Their unique marketing strategy was to promote catered lunches to giant, company shoppers, serving 300 meals per day. That plan went out the window when the pandemic hit. Al Basha pivoted to turn out to be a restaurant, with their home made falafels significantly fashionable. Abouzaid is making ready to launch a spin-off enterprise, “Falafel by O,” promoting the chickpea morsels pan-fried and frozen, marketed by means of retail and mail-order.

Like Abouzaid, Rafael Lora was additionally an immigrant working in company life, with goals of entrepreneurship. Lora, who moved to the town from the Dominican Republic in 2008, had a background in gross sales.

“I at all times knew in my thoughts that I needed to personal a enterprise. I didn’t know what form,” Lora says. His analysis led him to buy the Caribbean Market, which sells meals geared toward Spanish, Mexican, Dominican and African cuisines, on Lake Avenue. Lora now owns the shop outright and has doubled down on his holdings in Heart Metropolis by buying a laundromat and investing $500,000 in new gear and renovating the constructing.

Rafael Lora purchased this current laundromat, Laundry Lake Laundromat, which additionally has flats upstairs, in Manchester and renovated it, reopening it in February 2022. He additionally owns Caribbean Market and is renovating and increasing it. Picture/Allegra Boverman


“The fame of Heart Metropolis is dangerous, however I don’t suppose that’s the fact. I reside in Heart Metropolis, there are good folks right here,” Lora says. “There are points like in every single place, however folks reside protected and safe.”

Lora sees the necessity for extra reasonably priced housing within the central a part of the town, as demand isn’t balanced by provide. He says the world is also improved with higher streets and extra parking, as a result of many individuals from outdoors of the world drive in for ready meals and components that may’t be discovered at different eating places or grocery shops.

Lora and Abouzaid are following within the footsteps of Sandra Almonte, proprietor of the restaurant Don Quixote on Union Avenue. She and her former husband began the enterprise in 2000. They moved from New Jersey and noticed that there was a multicultural inhabitants in part of the town, with few companies open to serve them.

Don Quixote was first solely a Dominican restaurant, however rapidly shifted to a broader providing, with comforting dishes from Mexico and Central America. “We modified our flavors to actually cater to the Latino neighborhood basically and never simply Dominicans,” Almonte says. As her new neighbors got here to know her restaurant, she got here to know them. “I felt at dwelling.

The restaurant grew to become my livelihood. I made some extent of connecting to the folks and attending to know their names and households.”

The pandemic was surprisingly busy for Don Quixote, with the takeout growth tripling general gross sales. Almonte is likely to be well-established now, however she nonetheless feels a headwind in terms of attracting clientele from outdoors of the neighborhood. A latest capturing within the alley subsequent to her enterprise definitely didn’t assist. Whereas locals weren’t discouraged, information of such incidents in Heart Metropolis retains these outdoors the neighborhood away. “If you happen to’re not searching for bother, you received’t be in bother. However folks outdoors see the information and don’t are available in…. It’s due to the stereotyping and [fear] of the crime.”

Sprucing Up the Neighborhood

Small enterprise house owners have a possibility to achieve perception into the struggles of their clients. They usually discover methods to assist or to advocate for change, whether or not it’s providing meals for just lately resettled refugees, preventing for extra reasonably priced housing or agitating Metropolis Corridor for extra frequent trash assortment.

Almonte says it isn’t logical for trash assortment in densely populated elements of the town to be solely as frequent as within the single-family neighborhoods. Doing so solely ensures that rubbish will pile up wherever there are residence buildings, whereas the opposite neighborhoods keep clear.

“If rubbish was going to be picked up extra usually within the internal metropolis for folks dwelling in triple deckers, that may be an excellent begin,” Almonte says. “Elm Avenue has rubbish cans alongside the way in which. Can now we have some on Pine Avenue, Union Avenue, Chestnut? It’s a begin to having a cleaner metropolis.”

Almonte advocates for reasonably priced housing within the metropolis, serving as board chair for NeighborWorks Southern NH, which gives reasonably priced rental housing in addition to homeownership and monetary wellness education schemes. When her employees had issue discovering reasonably priced housing in Heart Metropolis, she purchased a triple-decker constructing close to the restaurant to offer that.

Almonte desires to alter the way in which folks see the densest a part of the town. “Earlier than I’m outdated, I hope to beautify it, to get extra enterprise house owners and residents to be owners.” In that case, she says, they are going to be higher caretakers and neighborhood advocates than the absentee landlords. She envisions the litter changed by timber and inexperienced house.

Sandra Almonte has owned Don Quijote Genuine Caribbean Delicacies in Manchester for 22 years. Picture/Allegra Boverman


Creating Alternative

It’s a wise entrepreneur who provides low-income areas cautious consideration, says Heather McGrail, president and CEO of the Larger Manchester Chamber. The chance is there as a result of so many others have appeared elsewhere first.

“Compared to different, extra prosperous sections of the town, there may be dramatically much less competitors,” McGrail says. Many low-income neighborhoods are scarce in companies which might be prevalent in different elements of the town. “Retail, monetary companies and private companies are sometimes poorly represented in these underserved areas. By fulfilling unmet wants, a brand new enterprise can achieve a loyal following rapidly,” she says.

If the enterprise can achieve fluency with the distinctive character and tradition of close by residents, it may be “predictive of success,” McGrail says.

That stated, there are additionally limitations to contemplate when serving a buyer base of restricted means—services or products needs to be priced inside the monetary attain of the meant market, McGrail says. “We strongly advise that the entrepreneur think about the ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic make-up of the neighborhood when designing the marketing strategy.”

In coming to the neighborhood, a brand new enterprise brings not only a new service or product, however new vitality, and could possibly be a catalyst for neighborhood betterment, McGrail says. “A profitable enterprise has the ability to positively change the material of an underserved neighborhood and spark the ripple impact of revitalization. When a brand new enterprise chooses to find its institution in a much less privileged part of the town, the affect might be actually significant and dramatic for the individuals who reside there,” she says.

Editor Matthew J. Mowry contributed to this text.


These articles are being shared by companions in The Granite State Information Collaborative as a part of our race and fairness undertaking.  It was edited by Enterprise NH Journal, a associate within the collaborative. For extra info go to collaborativenh.org.