After the pandemic put a halt to his private catering business, the Brooklyn member took over a neighbourhood deli to serve up Lebanese cuisine, a taste of which he brought to homeless LGBTQ+ children this Thanksgiving through a partnership with The Ali Forney Center
By Cori Burford Portrait by Joe Cruz Images courtesy of Edouard Massih
But instead of despairing, Massih started work on a brand new project: a Lebanese deli in his neighbourhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, called Edy’s Grocer.
‘When I moved to America at the age of 10, it was very difficult for me to find Lebanese groceries, so my dream was always to bring them to Americans,’ he says. Part market, part deli and part cafe, Edy’s Grocer stocks a range of hard-to-find Lebanese goods, as well as dips, sandwiches, salads, and other prepared foods. ‘I brought all my childhood favourites to life,’ he says.
Before Massih took over the space, it used to be Maria’s Deli, a neighbourhood staple for more than 40 years. When its owner, a Polish immigrant called Maria Puk, decided to close her business this summer, she passed the torch to Massih who had become a close friend. ‘Whenever I would visit Maria’s Deli for her famous fish sandwich, we would joke about her retiring and me taking over the business. Well, that day has come,’ he wrote in an Instagram post in early July.
'Overall, it made me work harder, smarter and better to bring Lebanese goods and food to our community here, and make my people at home proud'
He opened the doors to Edy’s Grocer on 15 August in the wake of the Beirut explosions, and the tragedy weighed heavily on him during the first few weeks. ‘It really took a big toll on me mentally and physically,’ Massih remembers. To help where he could, he launched an in-store fundraiser with SEAL for Lebanon, sharing a special selection of Lebanese goods with each person who donated. ‘Overall, it made me work harder, smarter and better to bring Lebanese goods and food to our community here, and make my people at home proud,’ he says.
The Greenpoint community gave Massih a reason to push forward, too. In particular, he remembers a moment right before opening, when a stranger from the neighbourhood stopped by with a bouquet of flowers. ‘They were red, white and green flowers that represented the Lebanese flag,’ he says, and they included a short note of support that read, ‘We’re thinking of you. Keep doing what you’re doing and making your people proud.’
‘When I read that note, it kind of got rid of everything bad that was happening, and motivated me to get the store up and running,’ he says. ‘It really meant a lot to me. It showed that the community was excited for Edy’s Grocer and that’s who I was doing it for.’