Article by Siri Anderson
Halal Meats & Specialty Foods
12333 Lake City Way NE
Seattle, WA 98125
As you head south on Lake City Way, just past the intersection at 125th, there is a little halal market called Hamdi, run by Gezat Abitew. A 15-year Lake City resident originally from Ethiopia, Gezat bought the Hamdi Market with his wife, Enana, two years ago — though it’s most often Gezat that you’ll see behind the counter or sitting in front of his business talking with a friend.
Specializing in halal meats and import foods, Hamdi Market serves mostly customers originally from East Africa, who now live in the greater Seattle area.
Gezat says it’s hard work keeping a small business running in a rapidly changing region. And it’s especially challenging to keep afloat in a city where the cost of living continues to creep upward — it takes creativity and new ideas. Keep an eye out for hot foods and deli service that they hope to start offering this summer.
Rich histories in the faces of Lake City
In the quick pace of daily life, it’s easy to overlook the people around the neighborhood or wonder how our lives came to cross here in this northeastern corner of Seattle. It can feel like enough work just not to run into one another trying to catch your next bus. But in short conversations, we can uncover rich stories.
Gezat has lived a rich life — he is a survivor of political unrest with a deep love for his family; you can see glimmers of the stories he’s lived in the sparkle of his eye and in the slight limp he has due to an achy foot. Fifteen years ago, he and his wife received their diversity visa through the US immigration lottery system; they took the opportunity to move here, so they could offer their three children a good education and set them up for successful futures. And they succeeded: All three of their children have now graduated from university, two with bachelor’s and one with a Master’s in computer science.
Despite the Pacific Northwest gray, Gezat talks about how much he loves Seattle and the United States, nearly as much as he misses his home country. Here, he says we are free to a degree that many of us take for granted — we assume freedoms he fought and suffered to gain back in Ethiopia. But he has his criticisms of our country too — Americans work too much, he says, often to our own detriment. “Here, people just work and go home alone. It seems meaningless. At home in Ethiopia, social life is #1. That is better — you eat lunch together, go to parties, and you are together with people.” Many of people born in America who couldn’t agree more as well.
Gezat and Enana plan to sell the Hamdi Market in the coming years to someone who would like to serve the community, so he and his wife can retire in Ethiopia, where life is simpler, more affordable, and full of good company.
“The rest of our life will be about living with people,” he hopes. Stop by for a bit of Gezat’s wisdom and to check in on their new deli service.