Kitchener-Waterloo

'I'm so glad here:' Just 2 years in Canada, Asia Haraki now runs a store

Her Middle-Eastern grocery store is the first in Waterloo, Ont. to sell fresh baklava

The sizzling sounds radiate outwards from the hot foods section that features shawarma, falafel and onion rings, enticing  customers as they browse the aisles of international dried goods, halal meat and baked goods.

This is a Middle Eastern grocery store, opened on June 3 in Waterloo, Ont. by Asia Haraki. As remarkable as the products, the store's manager is also unusual. It's not quite two years since she first landed in Canada as a refugee from Iraq, with virtually no English and even less retail experience.

Asia Haraki

Asia Haraki used to be a kindergarten teacher in Iraq. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Haraki runs the store with her family, including her brother and sister-in-law.

"All my family support me, it's good for me," she said.

The store sells a variety of international foods, from Iraqi dates to Chinese peanuts to multiple varieties of rice. Haraki said although it's a Middle Eastern grocery store, communities of all backgrounds visit the store and are welcomed.

Fatah Fatah

Fatah Fatah is Haraki's husband. He works as a translator and interpreter, and volunteers at the store. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Noor Food Market shawarma

You can also find beef and chicken shawarma in a corner of the store. (Flora Pan/CBC)

She learned some English back in Iraq, but she was not fluent. By enrolling in English as a Second Language lessons soon after her arrival in Canada, her skills improved.

Haraki said once her English got better, she thought of starting work right away.

That thought was the beginning of Noor Food Market.

Noor Food Market shawarma

The hot foods section is modest and also offers drinks like Iranian tea. Haraki said the tea is popular with her Turkish customers. (Flora Pan/CBC)

With financial support from her family, she opened this corner store in a Waterloo plaza. She believes it's the first small shop in the region to sell the sweet honey-and-nut pastry, fresh baklava.

Baklava Noor Food Market

Haraki said one of the store's main selling points is the fresh Baklava. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Before coming to Canada, Haraki was a kindergarten teacher in Iraq.

"This is a different job, you know? Teacher to store, to business, but I'm so glad here. And I'm so happy with my family," she said.

However, she wishes her mother was here. Haraki keeps in touch with her and hopes to bring her over to Canada.

"I miss my mom," she said with tears threatening to fall.

Asia Haraki and Fatah Fatah

Haraki said she is happy and grateful to be running the business now with her family's support. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Noor Food Market grocery store

Noor Food Market has three aisles of international dried goods, along with freezer foods, halal meat and pastries. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Noor Food Market

Noor Food Market is located at 347 Erb. St, in a Waterloo plaza. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Haraki said she chose Canada as her new home because her brother had lived here for 26 years. Her two children love it here and she feels safe.

"Thank you for having me in Canada, thank you for all."

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