On Saturday, someone broke the front windows of the Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli on 16th Street in Central Phoenix. The motive is unclear, although the suspicion on social media is that it's a hate crime. The community has rallied to support the bakery.
A little after 9 this morning, Dec. 5, patrons already were lined up waiting to make purchases. Phoenix police were also on the scene, explaining that the owners have not yet filed a report — the cops caught wind of the incident on social media and the local news and came to investigate. Owners Isam and Tina Saed could not be reached for comment.
Word of the incident began to spread this weekend on social media.
“When I walked up this morning the windows were smashed,” a frequent patron of the deli, Marnee Burrus, wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
“I asked the store owner what happened and she told me this is the second time this has happened to them since the election and they can’t afford the expense of replacing the glass a second time right now.”
Burrus’ post went viral, and soon, Phoenicians were pledging their support to Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli, vowing to visit the family-owned business this week. (It was closed on Sunday.)
Valley resident Kym Ventola, who says she has known Isam and Tina Saed since 2010, started a GoFundMe drive for the deli to raise money to replace the cracked glass and purchase an alarm system.
“Isam will shake your hand, give you a hug – he makes everyone feel like family,” Ventola says. “We don’t want to make assumptions about why someone [broke the window] or assume connections between the current political climate and the fact the restaurant has ‘Middle Eastern’ in the name, but if that’s the case, the community wanted to show [the Saeds] that that’s not everybody, and they are welcome and loved here.”
In less than 24 hours, Ventola’s GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $6,700 (the initial goal was $1,500). The owners of M&M Glass on 32nd Avenue and Thomas Road have offered to replace the glass for free and donate the labor.
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When Isam Saed was featured as one of Chow Bella’s “100 Tastemakers” in 2012, he said, “I make [visiting the bakery and deli] an experience. I don't want people to just come in and eat — you can eat anywhere. But where you eat and you enjoy and you are able to laugh? My friend comes here four times a week and he said, ‘I have yet to see someone leave your store without a smile on his face.’”
It's likely that today will be a busy one for the the Saeds.
Barrio Café owner Silvana Salcido Esparza (her business is located just down the street) posted to her Facebook page early this morning:
“Did someone get ahold of the Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli to let them know that they better get ready for the crowds??? Don't be pissed if the service is slow...”