Hana grew up in Baghdad, where food, groceries, and bakeries were always a family affair for her. Both her grandmother and mother owned stores there, and she and her brothers have fond memories of helping and playing in those stores when they were small children in Iraq.
Today Hana is fulfilling her dream of having her own store. She recently opened Food Land Market, a combination Mediterranean restaurant, grocery store, bakery and coffee shop on Orchard Road. “Food has always been my passion,” she says. “And I love being a merchant. Opening this store is a way for my family to share our country’s culture and other cultures with Boise. And a big part of the culture is delicious food.”
Something for Everyone
In all, Food Land Market features baked goods, savory foods and desserts made onsite, as well as Turkish coffees and Halal meats. Visitors can shop for unique items such as roasted watermelon seeds, gum from Jordan, ice cream from the Middle East, and dry goods like a falafel maker or hand-made loofah. Food Land’s products come from all over the world, including Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and India.
At Food Land Market’s restaurant, customers can order popular Iraqi food like kabobs, falafel, and shawarma, as well as spring rolls from Malaysia and drinks from Thailand, among other items.
A Specialty Market and Restaurant
“Our store is different from any other Iraqi store in the area,” says Hana. “We have frozen foods in a 15-door freezer and fridge, a coffee shop and we make fresh pita bread every day. No other place in Boise makes it fresh daily.”
Hana has gone to great lengths to bring special products to her store. Long ago she sampled some unforgettable orange juice from a hi-tech OJ machine in San Diego. She searched far and wide to find the same machine for her store. She eventually located one in Amsterdam and brought it back to Food Land Market here in the United States.
A Life Filled With Joy and Challenges
Back in Baghdad, Hana studied special education and Arabic history and received degrees in each subject. She taught in the special ed field for four years before war forced her family to flee to Jordan, where they lived for the next ten years.
In 2007, Hana and her family came to Boise to continue rebuilding their lives. As a single mom with two kids, she and her children were the second, third and fourth Iraqis to ever settle in The City of Trees. Now there are 25 total members of her family here, including brothers, nephews, nieces, and sisters-in-law. In 2013, her family acquired a semi-truck and began a transportation business with assistance from Jannus and an Economic Opportunity (EO) loan. EO also gave her a loan to help start Food Land Market.
Putting Down Roots
For many years Hana worked at the Boise airport as a barista, but still held on to her dream of opening her own restaurant and bakery. “We love living in Boise,” she says. “People here are friendly and helpful. This is a great place to raise a family and earn a living.” In the future, she would like to make her store bigger and open new locations.
Hana is also very proud of her children’s accomplishments. Her daughter recently graduated from Boise State and her son is currently studying there. He is married and has a daughter of his own. He recently took a class about making baklava, which he will cook fresh at Food Land Market every day. “Other places have good baklava but it’s mostly frozen,” says Hana. “Ours is made from scratch daily. You can order it and other sweets by themselves or by the pound.”