Sunday, February 18, 2001

Cheviot market offers taste of the Balkans

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CHEVIOT — The red peppers are stuffed with cabbage. They are crunchy and briney, with a sweet aftertaste. The shelves are lined with large jars of stuffed red peppers from Macedonia, with pickled cauliflower and broccoli, with teas from Croatia and Slovenia.

        Smoked pork and beef sausage are arranged in a deli case. There is blueberry juice from Croatia.

        “The only things from the U.S. are from Coca-Cola,” says Rasim Sadija, proprietor of Sadrija's Foreign Food Market, which opened three months ago in the heart of Cheviot's business district.

        Rasim and Gordana Sadija are from Bosnia. They fled their country four years ago, ahead of war and economic misery. They settled in Texas, just outside Houston, then re-settled in Cincinnati, where Mr. Sadija has an uncle.

        They think they've found a niche with Sadrija's, a store that specializes in food and products from the Balkans. Blankets from Bosnia. Newspapers and magazines from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia. CD's and audio tapes from the Balkans.

        They added an “r” to their name and called the store Sadrija's, to approximate the sound of the Adriatic Sea, which fronts the Balkans.

        “It's just like the American dream story,” says Mr. Sadija. “I came here broke. It was really tough.”

        They spoke only a few words of English. But Mr. Sadija was committed to working hard. He drove a truck. “I had to take care of my family,” he explained.

        As he drove to cities with more diverse populations, he noted the ethnic restaurants and delicates sens. He thought, “Why not here in Cincinnati?”

        Weekends are good at the store, but it can be slow during the week. You need to be patient, he counsels himself. He relies on word of mouth. The deli is a bit off the beaten track of Harrison Avenue, at 3706 Cheviot Ave.

        The Sadijas are among more than 200 families from Bosnia who have relocated to the Cincinnati area, most of them driven from their country by war.

        Jasna Secic, who came from Bosnia almost six years ago and is on the staff of the International Family Resource Center, said most Bosnians arrive in this country as refugees, while some may have been relocated with companies and then remained when the war began.

        Ms. Secic has met the couple and patronized their store. It has the air of familiarity.

        “I like our food,” she said. “It's just nice to have something that has the name of your country on it. Something you grew up with.”

        Mr. Sadija and his wife worked seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., for about two months. Now the store is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, closed on Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.


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