Last October, a devastating fire ripped through three Chinatown businesses, reducing Shiraz Market, Middle East Bakery, and The Daily Grind café to rubble. On Sunday, a joyful Vali Shahheydari reopened Shiraz Market just a few blocks west of the original store. The shelves are already filled with dozens of containers of spiced nuts, Turkish delight, homemade baklava, and the many Iranian staples and delicacies Shiraz is known for.
As he told City Bites Insider about his ordeal and determination to reopen, the smiling store owner had to break off the conversation every few minutes to greet each customer personally as he or she came through the door. Most were Shiraz Market regulars, stopping by in person to offer their congratulations.
When Shiraz Market was destroyed, did you know you would reopen?
I did. I wanted to reopen as soon as possible and I knew I wanted to stay in this neighbourhood. I have so many customers here and I have missed them. Some of them called me every day to ask when I was going to open again. I have spent six months fighting with the insurance company, so it is good to finally be back.
When did you get the lease?
Just a month ago! I signed the lease in April and it took us just one month to open. I pushed everyone to get it done.
Tell me about the building.
The building I was in was smaller and very old. This building was built in 2006 so it feels new. It’s also a lot bigger, so there is more space to display goods and to move around. It has a big door and no curb so mothers with strollers can get in.
What are you going to do with all of the extra space you have?
I plan to sell all of the same Middle Eastern foods I did before, but maybe in the future I will include an Eastern European food section. Many people from Eastern Europe go to the orthodox church next door so it would be a good location.
How do you know about Eastern European groceries?
I am originally from Iran, but before I moved to Canada in 2008 I lived in Romania for 20 years. I still have friends and family there. I know the food very well.
Was it hard to get the store started up again?
My suppliers have been really good to me. When I contacted them to let them know that I was reopening, they sent me everything right away. I was very fair with them over the years and now they are being very fair with me.
Have you heard anything from your former neighbours at the Middle East Bakery?
I am not sure what their plans are. The owner passed away so I’m not sure if his family will reopen. They are very kind people, so it would be good to have them open again.
How does it feel to have so many old customers stopping by so soon?
It is good to be back. I have missed them. I knew if I opened here, everyone would find Shiraz Market again.