BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. - About 8,000 square feet of warehouse space sits empty on Northland Circle, and that is a good thing. It is a sign of good health for a brand new company and a proud Minnesotan.
James Sanigular is an immigrant from the west African nation of Liberia who has made his home in Shoreview and his living for 17 years as an investment banker. James missed one thing about his native land, the food.
"And then when I came here, I could not find these foods in the stores," explained Sanigular. "And I decided, if I cannot find it, there have got to be other people in the situation that I am."
Sanigular estimates there are at least 100,000 immigrants from African countries in Minnesota. He is sure that they missed seeing their foods in the big supermarkets. He set out to change that by founding Global African Foods.
Now he has five employees to categorize and distribute the shipments of food products directly from Africa, mainly Ghana, and, indirectly, from Africa through New York. He has employees from West Africa, like himself and Somalia, on the other side of the continent.
Three months ago, Sanigular scored his biggest client by having his foods in 17 Cub Food locations around the Twin Cities. The chain intends to expand to three more stores in the near future.
Ken Roberg, Grocery Manager at the Brooklyn Park Cub Foods outlet says James is right about the demand. "They (sales) have been going pretty good. I mean I have had to reorder several times. For the Holidays, for Thanksgiving, it was really good. I mean I was kind of surprised at the number of people asking for the products and where they were."
Presently, the eight products from Global African Foods occupy two shelves in the Global Market aisle of the store.
"Out of the 40 new vendors at Cub Foods this year, we came in number 2," said Sanigular. "So, that is very encouraging. And the other part is, we have not even introduced Somalian products into the store yet." He intends to add products catering to the tastes of Minnesota's 30-80,000 Somalis by January.
However, Sanigular believes his business can grow beyond the needs of African immigrants. "I am trying to introduce the demand not only to the African, but also to the majority population in the country to see the different tastes in African food," said Sanigular. "That is the goal of this company."
Sanigular intends to have in-store food sampling in the near future to give non-African Minnesotans a taste of his old homeland. He is expecting another big shipment of products in the next week or two, filling up the warehouse in Brooklyn Park. However, the way things are going for Sanigular, the food will not be in the warehouse very long.