Farmers Market Profile: Habibi

Habibi’s Secret is Love (and Top-Quality Ingredients)

By Matt Wilding (RVMS Marketing Committee volunteer)

@matthewwilding

The last ingredient listed for “kibbis” is sumac, which is qualified in parentheses as tasting like lemon on a paper sign. The eastern Mediterranean dish — a cracked wheat and pumpkin crust filled with onions, spinach, and chickpeas –resembles a samosa. It does not taste exactly like lemons; it does taste delicious. Turns out sumac, which many Bostonians might naturally partner with “poison,” contributes a potent, refreshing note to Habibi’s delightful take on this popular Levantine grab-and-go.

Watertown’s Habibi Gourmet Food has been working Boston-area farmers markets for about 18 months, when owner Ragab Hamdoun broke off his previous business partner. Roslindale regulars will recognize Hamdoun as the former proprietor of Samira’s Homemade. While the name is different, his variety of hummuses, Egyptian baby okra, blackeyed peas, and roasted cauliflower are the same as they ever were. Delectable sides like moujadara (lentil, rice, and caramelized onions) and muhammara (fire-roasted peppers, molasses, and walnuts) have droves of loyal fans returning to his Adams Park stand week after week. New additions to his all-vegetarian selection like spinach pie and a new artichoke-spinach hummus are proving big hits as well.  

The secret to Hamdoun’s success is a combination of commitment to quality and personal relationships to his customers. “It’s very personal to me,” he says. “I use organic lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil. Nobody in the stores does that. It’s all top quality ingredients from Lebanon… It’s made from scratch.” Hamdoun speaks of his food with passion, but it’s surpassed by talk of his patrons. “The Roslindale Farmers Market is wonderful. So diverse! I love the diversity of the customers there. Such wonderful, friendly, outgoing people. They’re committed. They come and support us.”

That mutual respect and admiration seems to be paying off for all parties. Crediting the market organizers and the people of the neighborhood, Hamdoun has moved beyond a purely transactional relationship with his customers. “I have repeat customers,” he says. “I get to know their families. It’s a really wonderful experience for me.” That personal touch has prompted Hamdoun to focus almost exclusively on farmers’ markets, where he and his product are more than just different packaging on the shelf. By speaking to customers and handing out liberal amounts of free samples, he’s able to peel people away from Big Hummus. “People really enjoy the interaction and the food,” he says. “I have a lot of people who tell me when they buy my stuff, ‘I can’t go back’” to store brands.

As our conversation comes to a close, Hamdoun prepares to make a batch of baba ganush. “Oh, I have baba ganush too!” he exclaims. “It’s one of the best.” If the kibbis are any indication, that’s likely not a boast. He loves all of his foods, and loves that it makes people happy. Maybe that’s why when he named his new company, he named it “Habibi,” an Arabic word for “my love.”

You can find Habibi Gourmet Food at Roslindale Farmers Market through November 18th.

Business Profile: Roslindale Barber Shop

Roslindale Barber Shop Business Profile

This is part two of a five-part series of photos and profiles of businesses in Roslindale Village. RVMS photographer, Bruce Spero, and RVMS Program Manager, Kelsie Evans, are visiting five businesses around the Village to capture some of what goes on behind the scenes. View more photos HERE. 

Spend even a few minutes at Roslindale Barber Shop, and you’ll see that when Anderson Díaz, the owner, says “all our customers become friends,” he means it. Anderson has a joke or a smile for everyone that walks in, and that warm, welcoming atmosphere, plus their 5-star reviews online, keep the shop busy.

“Barbers really have to interact with people – you’re touching someone’s face – and after a few visits, you get to know them, learn about their day, and get close,” said Anderson.  He puts new barbers through a test to be sure they have the technical skills, but says “it is about more than just cutting hair. We also care about what type of person a barber is – can he get along with co-workers and customers?”

Anderson’s focus on customer service and relationship-building has paid off. Customers in the shop that day had traveled from all over Boston, the South Shore, and even New Hampshire. Chester, a customer of Alex’s, comes from Braintree every week, “I come here for the people, and it’s a good quality haircut.”

“I used to live around here, on Poplar Street,” another customer, Terrance says, “and would come in for a haircut. I got close with Alex, then “Fraga” [Anderson’s nickname]. They’re like family here. I actually haven’t been in a few months and I missed it so I decided to come for a visit. They’re good people. It is money well spent.”

Each barber wears a uniform embroidered with a nickname, usually bestowed by Anderson. Sometimes they are obvious (for example, Sandy Cuevas, nicknamed “el Menor,” is short), and other times, based on the shared smiles when asked, you can tell there’s a longer story behind the nicknames. Other nicknames include “La Fraga” (Anderson), “Ñanga” (Jose Luis), and “Tigry” (Leander Jimenez).

The shop has a summer and a winter uniform, which Anderson adopted because it “looks more professional”

Roslindale Barber Shop prides themselves on quality reputation. “Our work speaks for itself,” said Anderson. They stay up on current styles and techniques, and encourage customers to show them a picture if they want to try something new, adding “we can do anything.”

This speaks to Anderson’s entrepreneurial spirit as a self-taught barber (and computer technician and English speaker). He’s from the Dominican Republic, and says, “In the Dominican Republic, everybody’s a barber. We like to go out and have fun, and have to be on point, so we get haircuts two – three times a week.”

Anderson moved to the United States from Baní, Dominican Republic ten years ago, first living in New Jersey before moving to Boston ten months later. He goes back to visit every year, usually during the winter, and his family comes to visit him. When we visited, his dad, Juan Díaz, was at the shop.

Most of the barbers in the shop are also from the Dominican Republic and they have built a community here in Roslindale. A neighbor named Netaly (who also has a nickname: “Niño Blo), often cooks them Dominican food and brings it to the shop, like boiled plantains and fried eggs for breakfast. Anderson is friendly with the nearby barber shops, saying, “they’re all Dominican, and most are from the same town as I am.”

Roslindale Barber Shop has been in business four years, and Anderson, a Roslindale resident himself, credits their success not only on their skills and 5-star reviews, but also the “foot traffic and clientele” in Roslindale. They are especially busy on weekends and around holidays, but with eight barbers, “the wait is never long.”

When asked about his favorite businesses around Roslindale, Anderson is quick to mention the snowflake roll at Diane’s Bakery, and says he and the other barbers enjoy chicken wings at Redd’s in Rozzie across the street, and playing pool at Napper Tandy’s.

Roslindale Barber Shop

4256 Washington St

Roslindale, MA 02131

617-390-5244

Savor the Square Event Thank You & Bite of the Night Recipient

Thanks to the Volunteers, Restaurants, Sponsors, and Attendees that made Savor the Square a Success

We had a great time at Savor the Square, a special, one-night fundraiser for RVMS that showcased the best of food in Roslindale, on Thursday, September 28th. After many successful years of hosting Taste of Roslindale, we were excited to bring the event back under a new name and with some fresh energy. This year, attendees exchanged purchased “taste tickets” for plates at each of the participating restaurants, and live music by Betty’s Bounce provided the perfect backdrop for eating, drinking, and socializing.

Thank you to the 14 restaurants that participated and served up some delicious food from baklava to grilled cheese: 753 South, Birch St Bistro, Boston Cheese Cellar, Delfino, Effie’s Kitchen, Fornax Bread, Co., Jamaica Mi Hungry, Napper Tandy’s, The Pleasant Cafe, Redd’s in Rozzie, Shanti Restaurant, Sophia’s Grotto, Tony’s Market, and Village Sushi and Grill. Thanks also to PS Gourmet for providing coffee.

Attendees voted on their favorite Bite of the Night on their way out the door. We’re excited to share that Shanti Restaurant‘s plate, spinach chaat, received the most “votes” from event attendees. 

Thank you to our event Co-Sponsor Meetinghouse Bank and our other supporters.

Thank you to the many local businesses who donated items to our silent auction: Akasha Yoga Studio, Allandale Farm, Birch St House & Garden, Blue Star Restaurant, Centre Cuts Salon and Spa, Chance Liquors, Craft Beer Cellar Roslindale, Chris Lang Photography, Exodus Bagels, Harrison Refrigeration, Highland Hounds, Pet Cabaret, PS Gourmet, Sebastian’s Barber Shop, Thrift Shop of Boston, Trethewey Bros, Unleashed by Petco, Village Market. 

The event was made possible by dedicated volunteers from our community, the RVMS Board, and RVMS Committees. Thank you to our Event Committee, who devoted many hours to planning the event: Adam Shutes, Erin Doherty, Kelly Ransom, Liz Graham-Meredith, and Liz Sherva. Thank you to RVMS Board and committee members who volunteered at the event: Anthony Giordano, Chris Kollett, Daniel Johnson, Hilary Sullivan, Kate Schlegel, Martha Echan, Meg Vulliez, Mike Peluse, Nina Pralour, Robert Orthman, and Terry Fitzgerald. Thank you to the community members who volunteered at the event as well: Ari Sanchez, Caitlin Sheehan, Carey Dunfey, Cassie Madden, Julie Gannon, Noelle Tarrant, Rebecca Williams, Sarah Mawn, Susan Dupont, and volunteers from The Cooperative Bank and Tremont Credit Union. And, of course, a huge thank you to our event emcees: Glenn Williams and Kelly Ransom.

Thank you for joining us this year, and we look forward to another fun event next year! You can view photos from the event by Renee DeKona Photography here.