The history of Holy Land is the story of a dream. A dream that has been realized using the principles of hard work, family, tradition and Islam as its cornerstones. The families dream began over 100 years ago with Grandfather Abu Saeed. He brought to the dream the time tested recipe of making pita bread.
Wajdi Wadi, Holy Land’s founder, came from Kuwait to the United States to attend college at Moorehead State University (MN), supported by his mother and father to whom he gives much credit. His father worked three jobs and his mother was working for the first time in her life to support their oldest son’s education. Even so, it was no free ride for Wajdi who like many of us, flipped burgers to help put him self through school.
Father, Mahmoud, “Baba” as he is affectingly called, could best be described as the personality of Holy Land. His personality was infectious while he cut the fresh vegetables for the day, or stood behind the counter slicing gyro. Customers coming to Holy Land would always look for him, the man with the smile. His character added a special ingredient. You can see a bit of his smile in each employee to this day.
Mama Fatima, as she is known to all, can be described as the backbone of the business. She has always used her own recipes in the food she prepares for the deli. These would later be critically acclaimed for their flavor and authenticity. Mama would lead by example cooking all night to prepare food for the next day’s business. She would teach and lead in the lessons of business and customer service. Mama created at Holy Land an atmosphere of true hospitality, of genuine friendliness, of family. In bringing these important elements to the business Mama would also bring in larger and larger crowds. The family’s strong bond would soon extend to the community, and has made Holy Land a neighborhood and city wide institution.
By 1993, Holy Land had outgrown its original storefront location, while City Pages named it the “Best Middle Eastern Deli”. 1994 brought relocation to just next door, a space which would accommodate Holy Land’s increasing needs. In 1995 Wajdi’s brother Majdi came from Jordan to join the family business. Majdi brought his expertise in running a business to Holy Land. Majdi’s high management experience, along with his 10 years of marketing and finance, would prove very useful in facilitating Holy Land to grow beyond all expectations. He also brought an in-depth knowledge in dealing with various cultures and community.
Majdi learned every aspect of the business first hand and was not afraid to jump into any job which would give him a working knowledge of the store. From here the brothers Wadi were able to focus on and determine how to best meet the needs of Minneapolis. The menu expanded as customer’s clamored for the delicious and healthy food Mama Fatima was cooking.
The Wadi Family’s dream of Holy Land has developed and they have sought to be more than just a business. Holy Land worked hard to improve the neighborhood. Majdi has worked within the community and the various cultures developing a broader business base. The Star Tribune once labeled Holy Land as “a mecca for the international shopper,” but it has become much more. It has become a mecca for Minneapolis’ growingly diverse community.
As the customer base increased in numbers and different cultures, a larger variety of products from around the world became needed. Holy Land’s continued growth meant more space was necessary. Working with the City of Minneapolis and multiple neighborhood associations, the Wadi family was able to enlarge the size of the store implementing the newest guidelines. In November of 2001 Majdi was nominated by Wells Fargo Bank for the “National Small Business Person Of The Year” award. Wells Fargo heralded him as “exhibiting management skills that transformed a very small neighborhood grocery store into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Holy Land was regarded as “the key to the economic revitalization of the Central Avenue commercial corridor in NE Minneapolis. For this outstanding achievement Majdi was honored to be named the “Grand Marshall” of the Northeast Parade. The City of Minneapolis saluted Holy Land by announcing August 21, 2002 as “Holy Land Bakery and Deli Day”.
Holy Land continues to help support the local neighborhood, youth organizations, schools, and Minneapolis’ Muslim community. One of Holy Land’s mottos is “The time for peace is now,” and it is evident as Holy Land’s employees come from all over the world.
Holy Land distributes its products to many local stores and co-ops throughout the twin cities, greater Minnesota, and has even expanded business to neighboring states. Though business continues to grow, the family remains committed to the original idea of providing quality food with friendly family atmosphere. Mama Fatima will continue to provide us with amazing food, and you will always feel like a part of the family when you visit Holy Land.