The World Under One Roof
Boise International Market offers a cornucopia of culture
The Boise International Market, a cultural cornucopia celebrating Boise’s international community, recently opened on the Bench at Franklin and Curtis Roads. Operated on a business incubator model, BIM features various types of small companies from ethnic restaurants and produce stands to tea sellers and coffee shops, with a couple of clothing shops sprinkled in. Business owners rent their spaces; in return, BIM provides the infrastructure and know-how to get a start-up running.
“The Market provides a unique platform to business owners,” said Lori Porreca, co-owner of the Boise International Market, “by reducing costs and barriers to entry, providing training and mentoring to start and operate their business, providing a community atmosphere where businesses can work together to be successful, and programming and events that create vibrancy for the Market.”
“I want to follow my dream,” said Abdul Mukomwa, who owns Loba African Fashion and Fresh Produce with his wife, Kutukira Mberwa.
Loba offers homemade African clothing and accessories as well as no-spray, non-GMO produce, which Mukomwa and Mberwa grow locally. Mukomwa has very little down time. He’s an entrepreneur, farmer, husband, father of three and holds two other jobs as well. He’s also planning to finish up an associate’s degree in business in the near future.
This hectic pace is common among BIM’s entrepreneurs.
Business owners face additional challenges, added Porreca, which include juggling “language, cultural differences in regards to consumer customs, and adapting to the American business model and consumer. Our model attempts to provide a supportive environment to help businesses start and grow.”
Many BIM owners are refugees or immigrants, but others are American-born entrepreneurs. Some have operated a business in the past and some are first-timers.
“We look for individuals who have a unique concept and an entrepreneurial spirit to bring to the Market,” said Porreca.
Another common thread is the desire to offer a product or service that is culturally unique to the market. Joyful Tea, for instance, sells loose-leaf teas from around the world, including different types of green, black, white, oolong and pu-erh. There are also a few small grocery shops that sell a variety of spices, dried foods, beverages and other imports from places such as Ethiopia and Eritrea in Africa, plus the Middle East, Bhutan and Nepal. You can even find frozen grass-fed beef, pork and rabbit.
Prepared food is also a foundational pillar of BIM.
“Everything is fresh,” said Kibrom Milash, gesturing to a pile of spongy injera pancakes and various bright red stews. “Everything.” Milash and his wife, Tirhas Hailu, own Kibrom’s Restaurant, an Ethiopian and Eritrean eatery. The couple ran a café for five years while living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia before relocating to Boise in 2013.
In addition to Kibrom’s, there are a handful of other restaurants now open at BIM. The Goodness Land offers Middle Eastern specialties like kebabs and shawarma, while El Cafetal serves a varied menu of homemade Colombian cuisine, including tamales, empanadas and arepas. Kahve Coffee offers Turkish coffee and baklava, along with tea and other desserts from around the world. There’s even JBR’s BBQ, a North Carolina–style barbecue joint owned by American Ryan Hansen.
To keep people coming in the doors, BIM regularly hosts vibrant cultural events like art shows, music performances and live dancing. In addition, the large parking lot in front will be transformed to host events over the summer.
“We’re working to make the Boise International Market a place where people in the community come every day,” said Porreca. “We want it to be a central place for the community, especially on the Bench and surrounding neighborhoods.”
Boise International Market
5823 W. Franklin Rd., Boise, ID 83709