As the West Twin Cities metro’s West African population continues to grow, so have the businesses catering to that population, and two of those businesses have sprung in Crystal.

On Oct. 30, Marlene and Frederick Nah helped cut the ribbon on one of the city’s newest retail locations: African Foods and Gifts in the Crystal Shopping Center. A collection of city council members, their families, and representatives from the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce were on hand to meet the Nahs and sample ginger beer, plantain chips, and cornbread. The new store sells traditional Liberian foods, clothing, beauty products, gift items, and services like money transfers and photocopying.

"For a long time, we just got tired of being in corporate, in the work force, and wanted to do something for ourselves," Marlene Nah said, adding that the store’s ownership chose Crystal because, at the time, there were no other African stores in the city. "We have a lot of African stores, but they’re all concentrated in the Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park areas."

Nah said that the business would have been the first of its kind in the city when she and her business partners conceived of it, but they were beaten to the punch. Just down Bass Lake Road sits Sunshine African Market, which also carries several African specialties and celebrated its year anniversary in October.

"You walk in here and you’re from Liberia, you go back to what you’re used to," said Cyrus McGee, a manager at the store. "Those are the things we try to keep."

The market carries yams, cassava, palm cream and African dry fish, McGee said.

"We saw the need with the fact that we have a lot of Africans in this community," he added. "We looked around and found it necessary to have this. We can take the business to the African community."

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