Mediterranean comes to market in Chapel Hill
Jamil Kadoura started with a dream in 1992, opening a small restaurant in downtown Chapel Hill.
“I used to fry the falafel outside the door and bring it in at lunchtime,” he said, explaining that he didn’t have the space to do it inside the restaurant.
Since then, a lot of things have changed for Mediterranean Deli – it has expanded four times and is preparing for its fifth.
Mediterranean Deli bought the location next door – 414 W. Franklin St., formerly Time After Time vintage thrift shop – and plans to open a market selling Mediterranean grocery items.
The market will be connected to the restaurant via an arch that will be constructed in the wall so that diners can easily wander in to browse the market’s shelves, which will hold dried goods, spices and even Mediterranean Deli-branded olive oil.
Kadoura said that the market’s goods are tied to history. Often, people would ride camels through the desert with nothing to eat, making dried goods an important nutrient. And Kadoura, who is from Jerusalem, feels a personal connection to olive oil because of where he grew up.
Kadoura said he has wanted to open a market for a long time. Years ago, he installed a few shelves for goods but eventually opted to take them down in exchange for more seating for the growing restaurant.
But he knew it was time for a change when he sold $600 worth of goods in one week even without having a wide variety of products. He currently sells goods from the restaurant’s kitchen, such as spices that customers can’t find anywhere else.
UNC-Chapel Hill juniors Holly Caudill and Tara O’Connor are excited about the prospect of an addition to one of their favorite restaurants.
“I got back (to campus) on Sunday, and this is my second time at Med Deli,” Caudill said. “So I come here a lot.”
Kadoura expects the market to receive a warm welcome from many of his regular customers.
“People that want this will appreciate it,” he said. “Once you know your niche in the market, you know you can expand.”
But he didn’t take the decision to launch a new business venture lightly.
“Every time I expand I make sure I’m debt-free,” he said. “I’m a big believer in doing it slowly because you’re always stronger. We didn’t rush things; the business built itself.”
Kadoura is preparing for the new market by learning business tactics, such as what to keep in stock and how to communicate with customers about products they want.
He doesn’t have an exact opening date because he is waiting for permits from Chapel Hill. As soon as he gets the word, he said, he wants to begin the project right away.
He plans on making new hires so that the market and the restaurant will have two different staffs, although he doesn’t know how many new employees he will need yet.
Kadoura said he thinks his biggest challenge will be attracting people from outside Chapel Hill. However, since Mediterranean Deli is a well-known caterer throughout the Triangle and because the bakery’s pita bread is sold in many stores, he hopes that word will spread quickly.
Mediterranean Deli’s last expansion was the gluten-free pita bakery. Kadoura and his bakers created the recipe, trying different ratios of flours until they got it just right.
“That is the highlight of the business for me as an owner,” Kadoura said. “It’s something that you totally created from nothing.”
Kadoura hopes that his newest addition will be just as successful as his last.
“We’re gonna let the chips fall,” he said. “And I think they’ll fall in a good place.”