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By Mike Hazlip–
The smell of exotic spices and a warm smile from the owner greets customers at the newly opened Narenj Mediterranean Grocery in Citrus Heights.
Located in the shopping center on the southeastern corner of Antelope Road and Sunrise Boulevard, the store is crowded with fresh produce and rows of Mediterranean staples that are difficult, if not impossible, to find in other area supermarkets.
Narenj opened its doors two months ago on July 20. While the timing of opening a business during the COVID-19 shutdown wasn’t ideal, owner Kostantin Khoury, 56, said it was a matter of starting over for him and his family.
“When we decided to change countries, we decided to change everything,” Khoury told The Sentinel in an interview on Wednesday.
“I found a big difference between life here and my home country,” Khoury said. “But still the United States has opportunities… There is more [opportunity] here than anywhere in the world.”
Khoury is not alone. More than 5.5 million refugees have fled Syria since Janurary 2013, according to data provided by the United Nations. The nation has been rocked by a civil war that began in 2011.
As a result, basic necessities such as electricity are rationed in Syria. Citizens are allowed 12 hours of power each day, according to Khoury.
After immigrating to the United States two years ago, Khoury said he began working for Home Depot. He had to learn a new language, and new units of measurement. Only three countries throughout the world, including the U.S., use the imperial system of measurement. He said working for a big company helped him “enter the American system.”
Khoury said he saw opportunity for a Mediterranean grocery store in Citrus Heights because the area has a population of residents from several Mediterranean countries. A number of halal items are available at Narenj, and Khoury is happy to help customers speaking his native Arabic language.
Narenj is across the street from Yalla Yalla, a Mediterranean restaurant and bakery which opened two years ago at the northeast corner of Antelope Road and Sunrise Boulevard.
Khoury said Yalla Yalla has helped business by sending customers his way. Alan Liddawi, owner of Yalla Yalla, also buys ingredients from Narenj.
While there were a handful of customers in the store Wednesday, Khoury hopes business will pick up when COVID-19 shutdown orders are lifted.
Narenj Mediteranean Grocery is located at 7700 Sunrise Blvd., Suite 1300. Its hours of operation are currently 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
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