In retail: North African spices mixed in Turkey are sold by American siblings of Libyan descent in a Norwegian city | Business news


STOUGHTON – The international flair of this southern Dane County town is being upgraded along with its former movie theater that could be on its way to becoming a public market.

Joe Baird, who founded Mershon’s Cidery in 2014, bought the building and relocated to about half of the 30,000-square-foot space in November 2020, about nine months after the Cinema 5 Cafe at 124 W. Main St closed.

And now a spice company owned by three Madison siblings of Libyan descent has turned some of the space into retail stores to sell spices and cookware. They plan to use an existing commercial kitchen to create pop-up food experiences that include dishes from Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe, while Baird hopes to add more stores to the sprawling building.

Siblings, from left, Zainab, Ibrahim and Abdu Hassen are founders of Turkish Imports & Spices in downtown Stoughton. The trio also have plans for an e-commerce site and pop-up food offerings in their store, which is in a former movie theater that also houses Mershon’s Cidery.


Zainab Hassen, 35, and her two brothers Ibrahim, 36 and Abdu, 39, will open Turkish Imports & Spices on Saturday, which will stock their bespoke Mena Spices brands. The products initially reflect the food cultures of North Africa, but are produced and packaged in Turkey. The Hassens also want to expand their range to include spices from other parts of the world and are planning an online shop.

Samples, slated to begin next week, will be a staple in brick-and-mortar stores, aiming to introduce customers to new tastes and smells of spices such as hararat, Tunisian black pepper, tabil, galangal and ras el hanout.


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