By Alistair Kiyingi
“When the recession hit back in 2008, I lost my job and no one was hiring at the time, I thought of moving to another state but for some reason my heart didn’t support the idea. Since I couldn’t find a job, I created my own,” said Khursheed Ahmed, the owner of Amar Pizza who is also a first generation immigrant. His parents immigrated here from Bangladesh before he was born. Being a first generation immigrant, he was always on the outs at school and other public places. Such treatment always reminded him of his heritage that’s why he was inspired by his Bangladeshi roots to start his pizzeria business.
Upon entering the restaurant that is located on Joseph Campau and Carpenter Avenue, I was greeted with an appetizing aroma of the cooking pizza in the kitchen. There were about six customers patiently waiting for their orders.
Ahmed has lived in Hamtramck all his life so the city is home to him and his family. He worked in many restaurants through the years and that’s how he gained the experience. “I have always had a passion for pizza and whenever I would go out to a Pizzeria, I noticed they were serving the same stuff. No one had catered to the Bangladeshi community as far as Pizza goes. So I looked around and looked for something that was missing and that’s how I came up with this concept of Indian flavored Pizza,” said Ahmed when asked why he chose a pizzeria of all businesses.
The pizzeria has been open for eight years now. Ahmed applied for an NEIdeas business expansion grant to renovate the business, which also will beautify the city thus attracting more businesses to the area. Last year, he had to move the business from Conant to Joseph Campau because the landlord wouldn’t renew the lease. This had a financial impact on the business as a great number of his customers were closer to the old location across town.
“I applied for NEIdeas because I need to renovate this building. As you can see it is blue and white, which are not pizzeria colors. Giving the store a facelift will attract more businesses to the area,” Ahmed believes. The two buildings next to his are vacant and he strongly believes business attracts business. He is eager to be a part of expanding the energy on the Conant business strip, largely driven by Bangladeshi immigrants to Joseph Campau, the historic downtown location on the west side of town.
Amar Pizza is among the 85 businesses have been selected as finalists for the 2018 NEIdeas small business challenge, a program of the New Economy Initiative that rewards existing businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas for growth. This year, 612 businesses submitted applications to NEIdeas by the challenge’s June 1 deadline. Global Detroit assisted over 100 applicants to submit their applications and were shortlisted among the finalists. NEIdeas staff narrowed the larger pool of applicants to 85 finalists, who are being asked to submit additional materials to be further considered for $10,000 grants to help them grow their businesses. With assistance from a community jury, NEI will select 26 winners that will be announced in the fall.