By Ginger DeShaney
A new store has sprouted up in Southie and it’s all about community.
Sprout, at 47 L Street, is a specialty shop that offers daily grocery needs — produce, dairy, grains, and bread — but also a selection of oils, vinegars, spices, natural preservatives, spreads, yogurts, Italian sweets, artisanal cheeses, beverages, and so much more. Grab and go sandwiches, wraps, and salads are also available.
Owner Nazih Kishtban opened the store Aug. 2 and already has had good foot traffic.
Nazih had never opened a business. But when the COVID-19 pandemic derailed a new job he was supposed to start, he reevaluated his life. Feeling lost and confused, he volunteered with the Food Bank, helping package food, do deliveries, and more. After each shift, volunteers find out how many people were helped during that shift, he said. He realized that people want good, fresh, accessible food.
“I wanted to make a difference,” Nazih said. “A combination of everything just made me want to actually have my own business but that’s also beneficial to the community.”
He knew he didn’t want to be a small local market that sells cigarettes and cheap candy, or a huge chain grocery store, or a high-end store with expensive products, so he found the perfect in-between: a small shop with local products, healthy specialty items, commercial items, and a feel-good community atmosphere.
The shop is inviting and bright and Nazih is always ready for a conversation, to answer questions, or to be a resource.
“I found my second home here,” said Nazih, who is originally from Lebanon. “I want to try to build something here.”
In an effort to grow his business, his base, and his reputation, the personable Nazih seeks and gets customer feedback on what they’d like to see stocked in his store.
As such, he started carrying Teddie Peanut Butter, made in East Boston, after getting feedback. His section of local products also includes Thatcher Farm Dairy (Milton) and The Healthy Truth’s Life’s Nuts (Walpole); he will continue to add to his local offerings.
He’s gotten other suggestions from customers and will be incorporating those products, too, including avocado oils, dips, salsas, honey, and Vermont maple syrup. His shop will continue to grow with more shelving and more products, such as vegan mayo and BBQ sauce. He also has a dog section.
Nazih, who is not only the owner but the only employee, is looking into the possibility of applying for a beer and wine license.
The name Sprout came about because Nazih wanted something catchy and something that helps people understand the feel and character of the store: healthy offerings and a growing business.
Nazih left Lebanon 14 years ago because of the civil wars, the hate, the lack of infrastructure, jobs, education, and money. “I had no future there,” he said.
After getting his undergrad degree in accounting and business/management in Lebanon, he took advantage of his dual citizenship and went to Paris and worked there for three years.
In 2010, he came to Boston to get his master’s degree in finance from Boston University; he left Boston for a while and then came back. He’s been to 24 countries (and has friends all over the world), worked in four countries, and speaks four languages (everywhere he’s lived, he has to speak the language: Arabic, French, English, and some Chinese/Mandarin).
He called the years between ages 21 and 34 crazy and fun, “but I got to the point where I want to settle,” said Nazih, who is 35 years old. “I chose Boston. I have good roots here. I like the city. I’ve developed friendships here. It’s a good place where you can build a business.”
After so many years of corporate work, “I couldn’t stand being behind a desk all day long,” he said. “I like people, I like dealing with people. It’s really important to me to get to know people.”
And he is.
“People have been super friendly; they’ve come in to introduce themselves and welcome me to the neighborhood,” he said, noting that his business neighbors have also come in and welcomed him.
“It was overwhelming in a very good way,” he said. “It’s a small, tight community.”
Follow Sprout on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sprout_southie/
Sprout is open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day.