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.
[twocol_one]Wajdi graduated MSU in 1985 majoring in Finance and Marketing, and soon found his way to Minneapolis. Seeing an opportunity in “Ali Baba” bakery, he purchased the business with the help of his Uncle Ali. Uncle Ali offered tremendous support and the financial backing to make the dream possible. He continued to play a significant roll in the family business until his passing. He planted the seed of the dream.
Wajdi’s vision soon brought the business to a small neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis under the new banner “Holy Land”.
Beginning in an 800 square foot storefront, Holy Land found a niche as a Middle Eastern Deli, Bakery and Grocery. Wajdi created a recipe for success by offering specialty products that could not be found anywhere else. The deli and bakery were drawing a more diverse crowd. Using a recipe handed down from his grandfather, Abu Saeed, the family was making what would become award winning pita bread. The family’s dedication and hard work would ensure their success.
Father, Mahmoud, “Baba” as he is affectionately 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.
- 1986 Wajdi Wadi founded Holy Land
- 1993 Holy Land Wins “Best Middle Eastern Deli” by City Pages
- 1994 Holy Land relocates to its present address at 2513 Central Ave
- 1995 Majdi Wadi, brother of Wajdi joins the business
- 1998 Holy Land cited “Best Middle Eastern Grocery” by City Pages
- 1999 Holy Land is awarded “Best Middle Eastern Bakery” by Minnesota Monthly Magazine.
- 2001 Holy Land cited “Best Middle Eastern Grocery” by City Pages
- 2001 Majdi is nominated for the “National Small Business Person” Award by Wells Fargo Bank
- 2001 Holy Land is awarded “Best Middle Eastern Grocery” by City Pages.
- 2001 Holy Land is awarded “Best Authentic Restaurant” by Mpls St. Paul Magazine.
- 2002 City of Minneapolis names August 21st “Holy Land Bakery And Deli Day” with Ribbon Cutting on new addition
- 2002 Holy Land cited “Best Middle Eastern Grocery” by City Pages
- 2002 NE Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce awards Holy Land the “Business of the Year” Award for NE Minneapolis
- 2003 Holy Land cited “Best Middle Eastern Bread” by City Pages
- 2003 Majdi is the Grand Marshall in the Northeast Parade
- 2004 Holy Land cited “Best Middle Eastern Grocery” by City Pages
- 2004 Holy Land cited in AOL City Guide as “City’s Best Healthy Dining”
- 2005 Holy Land cited “Best Healthy Dining” by City Pages
- 2005 Holy Land is awarded “2005 Diners Choice Award” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine
- 2005 Holy Land is awarded “Best Health Dining” by AOL Cit Guide.
- 2005 Holy Land is awarded “Recommended Dining Choice” by City Search.
- 2006 Holy Land is awarded “50 Perfect Spots for Gourmet on the Go” by Minnesota Monthly.
- 2006 Holy Land is awarded “Top 25 Metro Area Restaurants” by Mpls St. Paul Business Journal.
- 2006 Holy Land is awarded “Top 25 Minority Owned Business” by Mpls St. Paul Business Journal.
- 2006 Holy Land opened second location in Global Market Midtown
- 2007 Holy land became first bakery in MN to export the bread to far east
- 2007 Holy Land won award from ‘Minneapolis- St. Paul Magazine’ as best Middle Eastern Restaurant
- 2007 Holy Land finished expanding Bakery facility
- 2007 Holy Land Opened a grand Hummus factory right next to central Location
- 2007 Holy Land’s bread and unique Hummus reached the shelves of Cub Foods
- 2008 Holy Land started selling Hummus and Bread to big companies like Lund’s and Byerly’s
- 2008 Holy Land Launched ‘Order Lunch and Dinner Online’
- 2008 Majdi Wadi got an award form NE Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce for being ‘Best Business man of the year in NE Minneapolis, MN
- 2008 Majdi Wadi, the CEO of the company, won the prestigious ‘ National Immigration Forum’s Carvel Entrepreneur Award’ from Keepers of American Dreams