A former Jamestown bus depot was repurposed into an ethnic grocery that opened Monday.
Konah and Munah Tarr said the growing West African community in Jamestown enjoy their native foods and that a local store can save a long drive to shop ethnic markets in other cities. The couple pooled their resources to lease the building that is now Munah’s African Market at 119 2nd Ave. SE.
“These are things that people were driving to Fargo and sometimes the Twin Cities to get,” Munah Tarr said. “We thought why not bring it here for them?”
The late Charlie Kourajian started Jamestown Bus Stop Inc., a nonprofit organization that leased a garage from First Congregational United Church of Christ and converted it into a bus depot in 2015. The structure was renovated with insulation, heat, air, electrical, sewer, water, plumbing and a restroom. It operated as a depot until it closed in 2018.
The space was ideal for a small store, Konah said.
After living in other communities with African stores, Konah said the couple put together a business plan, used their own funds and went through the inspections and certifications to get the store licensed by the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” Konah said.
The couple will take a truck twice a month to Star Ocean Wholesale Foods in St. Paul. They and some fellow store owners in Fargo will also order through a Philadelphia vendor who imports from Africa using a shared shipping container.
“We put in orders and everything comes together in Minneapolis,” Munah said.
There are African immigrant communities in Jamestown, Valley City and other surrounding communities, she said. People want the essentials available closer to them, she said.
“I feel so happy and glad,” said Winifred Quaye, a Jamestown resident and African immigrant, who was at the business Monday. “It’s very helpful because I used to go all the way to Fargo.”
The Tarr family have journeyed far from their native Liberia on the West African coast. After emigrating the couple lived in New Jersey before Konah found work in North Dakota’s Oil Patch and the couple eventually settled in Jamestown, where Munah is now a direct support professional at Anne Carlsen Center.
Munah said her Filipino co-workers also travel far to find foods of the Philippines, and told her what they’d like to see at the store. Along with the African short grain white rice there are the Filipino favorites, sticky rice and Jasmine rice along with rice noodles, coconut milk and the Mama Sita seasonings.
Three deep freezers have everything from cassava leaf, eggplant and okra, to dried and smoked chicken, fish and turkey neck, snapper, crawfish and chicken’s feet. The frozen “strong chicken” is a less tender variety that is boiled soft into a popular soup, Munah said.
Dried shark is also available and is popular as a soup with vegetables and rice. The dried shrimp is smoked and added to a spinach soup, she said.
Several varieties of African cassava, yams, plantains and cocoyams are available in plant or powder form. They are used to make fufu, a doughy ball that is dipped in palm butter or palava sauce, or eaten with meat or fish stew.
Orange-colored palm oil is available by the jug. The store also carries nongrocery herbal and beauty items from tonics and lotions to African black soap.
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Contact the store at 609-424-9253.