Mr. Alawdi, known as Abdo to most people, has been preparing massive Thanksgiving celebrations for his Dimond neighborhood for the past 9 years where he is the owner of the 2 Star Market, 2020 MacArthur Boulevard, a shop well-known for its wine and microbrew beer selection.
The first year he offered dinner to his neighborhood, advertising it on Craigslist, only fifteen people showed up, but of the undertaking, he says that “first year was complicated, the second year got easier then easier.” He is now very used to his Thanksgiving routine-setting up a giant tent, thirty to forty-five tables, and a 150 chairs. I asked him if he ever worried that it would get too big but he responded, “[I’m] not worried, [I]would love more.”
Abdo started this tradition because he remembers how his grandfather raised him in Yemen. During Ramadan he said, “Our house [was] always open.” He described that kind of sharing, seemingly so unusual in this country, as a “benefit from God [and] a cultural thing.” He also cooks for the Dimond District Picnic in the park just up the street from his store.
On the morning of the big feast, about forty or more people show up from 6 AM on to assist him and his family, but they usually begin cooking the night before, utilizing the ovens at nearby Romano’s Pizza.
Abdo purchases at least twenty-five turkeys in addition to chicken, lamb, and side dishes ranging from rice, corn, yams, and traditional Yemeni fare. Diners often donate home-cooked food like desserts and salads. When asked how much this repast costs him, he estimated five to six thousand dollars but stressed that it comes “from his heart.”
When asked how he feels about his adopted city Alawdi told me, “[The] city is good, reputation is bad.” He has lived in his neighborhood home for fifteen years where his kids attend public schools, including Skyline High School and Laney College. When he arrived in the US, he took courses in English as a Second Language in local adult schools-most of which have since been eliminated.
If you drive up Fruitvale into the Dimond District, you will see a giant banner advertising the holiday celebration. A website designed by Alawdi just for the occasion is listed, www.2starmarket.com and includes his personal email-Alawdi@aol.com.
When I asked Abdo if there was anything he could use to make it easier to stage this event, he mentioned that his biggest expense comes from renting the equipment: a 75×40 foot tent, up to 45 tables, chairs, etc. He also uses multiple barbeque kettles. If anyone reading this can provide some of these things, he could probably afford to buy more turkeys and host more folks. In the meantime, take a minute to stop by this Oakland hero’s business and say hello.
You might find that the 2 Star Market has added a deli section to the store offering fresh Middle Eastern fare. And, if you need to purchase some spirits for your own home-cooked meal, consider picking them up from the man who really knows how to lift the spirits of his Oakland neighborhood.