We’re travelling across the city to meet the businesses in Bristol Pound’s network who are making the most of our Premium Business Services. We want to hear the stories about their business, about themselves and how being apart of a localised economy helps them.
Approaching Baba Ganoush from Riverside Park, crossing over the A4032, the words JERUSLEUM FALAFEL appear like a mirage. Continuing your way across the overpass, you see a colourful mural showing a stream of fruit and veg with a caricature of a very excited bloke holding a falafel wrap above his head. When you walk past Baba Ganoush situated in St Pauls, it’s hard to miss the buzz of content people either stepping in, stepping out, or sitting down to eat from Baba Ganoush’s falafel-based vegan menu.
The place radiates positivity. This is due to its owners, Shad and Dael, having combined the satisfying feeling of eating well with the reassurance of paying a fair price; along with being in bright, welcoming surroundings and being part of a community – not part of a customer base.
It’s 11 am on a Friday when we sit down with Shad with his partner, Dael, listening on while serving. Throughout the interview, Shad welcomes and chats to all the customers that come in – not effecting his flow when speaking to me one bit. His enthusiasm is infectious, ready to share Baba Ganoush’s recipe for success; a recipe that is just as much about a community approach as it is about the ingredients that go into their food.
“If we don’t have the community, we don’t have this business. If you see the same customers every day, it motivates you to give them more.”
Shad founded Biblos in London in 1993 and sold his five stores in 2003. He then brought Biblos to Bristol before selling the shops here in 2008. During some time away, Shad turned vegan and then set up Baba Ganoush to share his new-found way of eating with the people of St Pauls. And with that, came its philosophy. Without us asking, Shad outlines the core mission of Baba Ganoush: “healthy recipe; quality, quantity and a reasonable price.”
We then ask if this Baba Ganoush business model would work if he took it back to London. Shad then points out of the window behind us to the side of his Baba Ganoush van, which reads Powered by Wriggle. “No, we’re powered by Wriggle, so we have no intention of leaving Bristol”.
Wriggle own 30% of Baba Ganoush which could partly explain some of the ridiculous deals you can pick up there. Wriggle has contributed to creating Baba Ganoush’s mythology of low prices, and the Bristol-based food deal app also helped put Baba Ganoush on the map (literally), bringing hungry customers to them, despite its out of the city centre location. But when it’s £2.50 for six falafel, flatbread and salad (yes, that’s correct), people were always going to notice. And that isn’t even with a Wriggle offer applied – or one of Shad’s special discounts. Which we asked him about next.
“There are discounts for people who work hard in the community. So there’s a Police 20% discount, NHS, Bristol City Council and all the charities as well. Every person that gets up early and goes to work, get a discount”.
Later, Shad mentions a 20% discount for anyone that had turned vegan, not to mention the Bristol Pound users discount.
It was sad that we found Shad and Dael’s generosity and compassion toward their customers to be so different – compared to other over-priced eateries of today. We put it to Shad why don’t more businesses try harder to really care about their customers – as it was working for Baba Ganoush. Shad replies: “We’re looking to make a profit to cover our expenses. We’re not looking to be a millionaire of the falafel.”
He pauses briefly then revealed that before setting up the London Biblos, he served in the military, then as a bodyguard for politicians and “all sort of shit like this… I just wanted to relax.” Hearing this, we look over at Dael who’s listening behind the counter and say “aside from this blog, it sounds like Shad needs a book written on him”. To which Dael replies “more than one!”
Shad then began to use military metaphors to describe how he ran Baba Ganoush – which at first sounds odd with how pleasant he and the business is. “Ground troops are the people. The people on the ground… and you’re one of them.” Shad continued “you don’t want to rip them off – you want to make them happy”.
This affinity with the people around him goes beyond just the food they serve. Talking about happiness prompted Shad to point out the other window to the mural of Brunel on the side of the dual carriageway.
Shad recalls how kids in the area thought it was Popeye (because of the pipe). “No, I said, it’s Brunel – the guy who built the suspension bridge – go seek it out.” The Brunel mural Shad’s talking about faces Baba Ganoush, bringing life to the tired-looking concrete. Shad has paid £2,000 of his own money to tidy it up. Explaining why he did, he said ‘kids walk past it every day, and it helps. Having your area looking fresh and happy – your brain’s happiness kicks in.”
On top of his discounts and his mission to brighten up the area surrounding the shop, Shad tells us about his other initiatives. Such as Bike Station, an idea that encourages people to cycle to work. They provide a bike bump, repair kit (and you guessed it) a discount to anyone cycling into school or work. He also tells about how he intends to take fruit and veg to the local nursery every week and teach kids about healthy eating.
In 2020, Shad also wants to introduce Community Bulletin Board which he hopes can empower local families who use the small shops in St Pauls area. He wants these families to voice their experiences on this board – (like a physical version of supermarket’s Twitter pages) in the hope of increasing the standards of service and keeping prices fair.
Shad remembers how British small shops used to be the best in the world and how they were a part of the community they existed in. But now that standard has dropped. Local shops are charging too much for food items like halloumi, which Shad thinks is unfair to families that are struggling with the living costs of 2019. “I don’t agree with that type of business”, adds Shad.
Baba Ganoush’s Community Bulletin Board would keep any local rogue traders in check. He believes it’s about looking after the next generation through food, money, supply and equality. And this includes doing business right and doing right by the people these businesses depend on.
We ask Shad how he finds being a member of Bristol Pound’s Premium Business Services. He loves working with other people and sharing ideas – and wants to share more of his own with Bristol Pound. “If we work together, we can become a stronghold in the community.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Shad.
Shad remembers when Bristol Pound began when he was still running Biblos in Bristol and how it reflected his ethos of collaboration, the value of good business – for customers and other companies, too. Having a ready to access network of local companies to work with or to explore their services makes for a stronger local economy.
As I thank Shad for his time, he shoots up out of his seat and makes me a wrap. A Bristol legend.
If you’d be interested in joining Bristol Pound’s Premium Business Services, please contact us at [email protected].