By Christina Killion Valdez
It's a typical day at Almis Coffee Shop, a Somali-American owned business in downtown Rochester, which means owner Abdulkadir Matan is smiling.
The computers near the back of the Internet cafe are busy, this day with Shueb Noor helping Maxmed Hasan activate a cellphone online. Nearby men gather at the tables in front to talk over Somali-style coffee and teas poured by Matan.
"Somalis need a place to socialize," Matan said, explaining why he opened the coffee shop at 117 N. Broadway on March 5.
Yet, getting to this point has been years in the making.
Like the majority of Rochester's Somali community, Matan has been sending money to family members in Somalia who have no other resources or income. He also has been supporting his own five children here. Throughout the years he sent enough money back so that his family could open a small coffee shop, he said.
Because of the improving situation in Somalia, especially in the self-proclaimed independent northern region of Somaliland, where Matan is from, his family is now among a growing number of small-business owners in the country, he said. That means Matan doesn't have to send as much money back anymore, making it possible to open the coffee shop here, he said.
He, like many Somalis, are optimistic that peace and prosperity will continue to spread across the country, especially after the first permanent government in more than 20 years takes control next month.
"It will be good to leave the transitional government and move to a regular government," Matan said. "I think it will help a lot."
Yet, like the coffee shop, where Matan is the lone employee, it will take time for Somalia to really get on its feet.
In the meantime, the Somali-Americans who frequent the shop check out its new items such as sweet pastries and savory sambusas. Others there stay up to date on the progress by seeking news online and watching the shop's TV, which is tuned to the news when it isn't showing European soccer or NBA games.
"Communication is good," Matan said. "They don't miss anything."