American Dreamers: Hashem’s In Dearborn, Michigan

Adam Hashem has a lot going on. His family-owned business, Hashem’s Nuts & Coffee in Dearborn, Michigan, is the largest distributor of Turkish Coffee in the United States. The pre-Easter demand for their fresh spices and blends is through the roof. And he has afternoon plans to join his bodybuilding friends to dress as superheroes to entertain patients at nearby Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Yes, Adam Hashem is busy–and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The story of this family business began in 1959 Lebanon. Adam’s grandfather lived and worked in the village of Bint Jabil as a local healer, providing his community with medicinal herbs and spices. Dedicated to quality, he used only the finest ingredients and his hand-mixed blends like seven spice and zaatar were from recipes that had been passed down for generations. He added nuts and coffee to the store’s offerings, and soon people were traveling from as far as Beirut to shop at Hashem’s.

But soon, instability in the region forced the family to relocate. Adam’s father was a sergeant in the Lebanese Army and conflicts with neighboring Israel were on the rise. With a wife and a child on the way, he began the search for a new home. Word spread that in America, Detroit was a welcome home for Arab immigrants and that the auto industry was hiring. In 1977, without having any contacts or speaking any English, the family moved to America where he took a job with Ford.

Adam was raised in west Detroit and was the only Muslim in a predominantly African American neighborhood. During his walks to and from school, he was often the target of bullies. Turning his differences into an advantage, Adam learned to trade with his bullies, hummus sandwiches in exchange for his safety. In time he was accepted by his classmates and Adam grew to become a representative of the Muslim people and community. This experience instilled in Adam a desire to use food to bridge cultures.

Today he is doing just that. Hashem’s Nuts & Coffee Gallery is a staple in its community of Dearborn, Michigan. A hub for Arab immigrants, Dearborn is home to the largest Arab American population in the United States and the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America. Hashem’s is a regular stop for members of the community who want a taste of home. And the business functions as a destination for new immigrants hoping to find their bearings. Adam has even helped customers to translate legal documents so that they can better acclimate to their new home.

But Hashem’s reach extends well beyond Dearborn’s Arabic population. The shop provides organic, hand-mixed spices and blends to countless restaurants in Detroit and beyond. Clients range from mom-and-pop operations like Al-Ameer to high profile restaurants and venues like the ritzy Townsend Hotel. Adam even personally educates local chefs on how to best use his spices, making the most of the bold flavors and aromatic fragrances. And at events, Adam is sure to bring not just his coffee and spices. At the Detroit Institute of Art‘s International Coffee and Tea Festival, guests could try traditional Lebanese musical instruments such as the derbake or the oudh. For Adam Hashem, every interaction is a chance to bring understanding to the community.

According to Adam, he’s living the real American dream. Due to his hard work and that of generations past, he can practice his faith and celebrate all of the cultures that make his country great. He makes the most of his opportunity to educate others on what it means to be Lebanese, Arab-American, and Muslim. Using his spices and coffee, he will continue to spread his values of health, respect, and pride. And it’s going to be delicious.

Want to know more? Check out Hashem’s Nuts & Coffee Gallery – and their sister shop Hashem’s Roastery & Market – on Yelp!

All photos courtesy of Doug Coombe