Karibu celebrates grand opening

Karibu Grocery and Deli, located at 719 Payne Ave., celebrated its official grand opening May 3, after a soft opening this past fall. The new business is run by the Ali family, East African community members who have lived in the Railroad Island neighborhood for some 20 years. (Marjorie Otto/Review)

After a soft opening last fall, Karibu Grocery and Deli celebrated its official grand opening on May 3, recognizing all who were involved in the process of making the business happen.

Karibu, located on the corner of Payne and Minnehaha avenues, has found strong support in the neighborhood, and serves as a gateway of sorts to the East Side — “karibu” means welcome in Swahili. 

“I’m so excited to see this developed and to see these ideas coming from our neighborhood,” said Don Lorr, a former Railroad Island Neighborhood Task Force chair. 

The business is run by the Ali family, which has lived just a few blocks from the corner for nearly 20 years. The event included family members celebrating in person, as well as relatives watching from Kenya via video calls. 

“This is a family affair,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who attended the celebration. “This is about equity, about community ownership and family ownership.”

Karibu replaced an abandoned gas station, which community members for years had been trying to clean up and redevelop.

The new colorful business carries common convenience items such as milk and eggs, but also stocks unique merchandise like Kenyan spices and Halal meat. The shop also has a small restaurant that makes East African foods.

During the May 3 grand opening, members of the Ali family thanked their partners in the project, including Rich Thomasgard, project manager at the African Development Center. 

“We had dreams and Rich made that possible,” said Mohamed Ali, who helps run the business.

Getting it up and running involved a number of funding sources, including STAR grants from the City of St. Paul and environmental remediation funds from a number of local and state agencies.

Taking nearly three years to come to fruition, work on the store faced challenges, including unexpected environmental remediation to clean the soil that had been polluted by the gas station. 

In all, the redevelopment project cost about $1.2 million; the family bought the former gas station and lot for $39,000 back in 2015.


–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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