The family who run Al-Maida Hot Food and Market in North Oakland has started a Gofundme campaign to pay for damages after someone backed a truck into their storefront on Friday, May 12 in the middle of the night during a burglary.
Al-Maida owner Sayed Muhammad and his wife cook an assortment of Afghan and Pakistani food as well as the occasional burger, an old menu item that was offered by the previous owners. Muhammad’s two sons, daughter Hina Akbar, and Akbar’s husband also work at the store part-time.
“I love the business, I’ve always wanted to have my own business, and I love getting to spend more time with my family,” Muhammad said.
The store’s facade protective metal shutters covering their front door were destroyed by the truck. Muhammad showed The Oaklandside security camera footage of a masked suspect dressed in all black clothing getting jumping over the pieces of the demolished front counter with a gun in their hand. Muhammad said no cash was stolen but the suspect did take cartons of cigarettes.
Al-Maida was closed for a few days before reopening last Wednesday. Every day, Muhammad and his family have to take down their makeshift wooden door and install it at the end of the day to protect the shop.
“Since the car crash, people are calling and asking if we’re open or not. I tell them I am open but some people still don’t know so I am afraid I’m going to lose customers,” Muhammad said.
Akbar started a fundraiser with the goal of raising $20,000 to rebuild their front counter, the door, and reinstall shutters. So far, their efforts have resulted in $18,000.
“We have gotten to know our community [these past few years] and we have good supporters,” Akbar said. “We have gained a family in the area.”
Kathy Phillips, a longtime resident who lives a couple of blocks away, says the family has contributed greatly to the character of the neighborhood since opening in 2018. “We’re a small quiet neighborhood and they became this special store where I could walk to and buy middle eastern ingredients,” Phillips said. “This has introduced a completely different kind of food to some of us and it’s basically irreplaceable.”
Akbar says her family has a long way to go before they can fully recoup their losses. The closure forced them to throw away a lot of spoiled food and because the shop was closed frequently throughout late March and April to observe Ramadan they were making up for lost revenue before having the additional burden of needing to fund repairs forced on them.
Akbar remains grateful for what her family has been able to achieve since arriving in the East Bay from Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Fleeing war in their home country, they migrated to Pakistan and a few years later made their way to the U.S. Muhammad was previously a cook for Chaat Café in Berkeley and Fremont and drove cabs for a time in San Francisco.
Opening Al-Maida was a risk but one the family was willing to take. “When we started, we were all getting paid in tips. If we got $10 in tips, it was divided into three or four parts,” Akbar said. “That’s how we started and we gave it all our time, energy, and now it’s getting better.”
For Muhammad, the fundraiser is about more than raising enough money to make repairs and recover lost inventory. “It means a lot to me when I have my family around me and I have my community around me, especially since I’ve been living in Berkeley now for 21 years, one mile away from the restaurant,” he said.
Al-Maida Hot Food and Market. 5650 Market St, Oakland, CA