Family offers convenience

Published 9:42 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Opening their business during a high point of economic uncertainty, Albert Mazumder and his brother Aldrin face the same challenges so many business owners can relate to these days.

Those challenges include getting customers through the door, providing a goods and services that are both needed and affordable and ultimately, staying in business.

“Business is getting better,” Mazumder said from behind the counter at the AME convenience store at 2310 N. Fifth Street in Niles. “But it is very slow.”

Mazumder and his brother have been running the store, owned by their mother Nelima Hazra, since it opened in March.

The store, which is waiting for its beer and wine license as well as a lotto license, offers everything from standard conveniences like cold drinks, cereal and refrigerated foods to cleaning supplies, outdoor grill supplies, baby food, toiletries, DVDs and t-shirts.

Mazumder said part of the slow start is due to the fact that the business is new and has been operating under little promotional activity or advertising.

“People have no idea that we are here,” he said. Another, possibly bigger reason, “the economy is bad.  People are not spending a lot of money, they are saving their money.”

But one thing Mazumder seems to have working for him, is a sense of optimism and determination along with some valuable experience.

Mazumder said owning and operating a store like AME has been the family business for years, since before he and his brother and his mother came to the states from Bangladesh.

Still, it’s been a rough start. Because suppliers have been leery of new businesses they have been unwilling to sell to Mazumder, he said because they’re worried he won’t be able to push the product.

So he is careful with quantity and makes the drive up to Kalamazoo “every other week almost” to purchase stock for the store.

That stock includes a unique selection of Mexican foods and snacks. That one offering of ethnic foods is a peek into a bigger picture for Mazumder. He said eventually he would like to be able to offer a wide variety of ethnic foods including, Asian, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani spices and goods to the area.

Mazumder said the quality of business hinges on his pending beer and wine license, a “lengthy process” that could take anywhere from one to six more months before it’s finalized.

Trying to offer as much service to his customers as product, Mazumder is also expecting to be approved to accept food stamps sometime next month. Prices are kept competitive to surrounding stores, he said and he currently offers CheckFree bill pay services and money grams at AME.

“Since my childhood,” Mazumder said. “Since I was five or six, all my life I’ve seen my father doing this business.”

With any luck, Mazumder and his family will see the tradition continue. So far, the hope is alive.  Having lived in Niles for years now, Mazumder said he has some great neighbors.

“They’re very friendly,” he said. “They’re coming in, they’re giving me advice (on) what to keep, what not to keep. They’re very supportive.”