As I was frequently changing my mind about the topic of this piece, I took a long, hard look at my surroundings. It became apparent to me that I am enveloped in a cultural mecca. I reside in South City, a place where numerous Bosnians and Croatians have taken root. Contained within my quaint neighborhood are many small businesses run by both Americans and Bosnians alike. So as I was immersed in my daily activities, I started to take notice as to how many shops are "Bosnian." My interest piqued, I embarked on a journey with my trusty translator, Elvis, to find out more about the people and the businesses around my area.
My translator informed me that there are now over 48 different Bosnian shops in the area with more opening up in the near future. He proudly boasted that some are even moving out of the area into the county so that the few Bosnians that have ventured out that way can still enjoy some of the small comforts of home. Since I had no idea of the vast number of businesses out there, I decided to visit a few to get an idea of what kinds of things the owners had to say.
I went only a few short blocks from my home when I happened upon a restaurant/pub called Caffé Romantica. The owner, Mirsad Kekic, 28, opened his business in September of 1997. When he left Bosnia, he resided in Germany for a short period of time, as did many Bosnian refugees. While in Germany, he was a butcher. Mirsad considers himself very lucky to be out of Bosnia and to have all of his family here with him. His business is doing quite well and he truly enjoys being here in St. Louis.
The next shop we visited was Mesnica Rora, a grocery/deli. Fevzo Islamovic, who has been a butcher for fifteen years, owns the small shop, which is run, in part, by his daughter and wife. The family has been in the United States for nine years. While Sabrina is fluent, her parents are just now learning English and would love to have more Americans frequent their shop. They have recently expanded the store to include more grocery items, most of which are imported directly from Bosnia; they looked and smelled delicious! The family is extremely happy to be here in America and would love to share their special smoked meat with people who stop by.
The third shop is conveniently located right on South Kingshighway. It is called Dado Shop and is owned and run by Darmin Beganovic. Darmin has lived in the United States for three years now and his store has been open for two. While living in Bosnia, Darmin was a technical engineer but decided to open his video/music store to help the Bosnians keep in touch with their culture. When asked about his homeland and the war, Darmin commented that he would rather try to forget and to move on. He also said that he is very happy to be here in St. Louis. Darmin is hoping to expand his business in the near future to include films that both Americans and Bosnians will enjoy. If his movie store doesn't interest you, Darmin also owns some apartment buildings in the area.
The final shop I visited was also on Kingshighway, a few doors down from the Dado Shop. This was a coffee shop/pub named Café Cappuccino. A husband and wife team named Natalia and Admir Mujkic owns the store. Both have other businesses, but decided to try their hands in the beverage business as well. Natalia is a realtor by trade and Admir works in general construction. The Café has only been open for two months but the two have been in the United State for four years. Natalia and Admir left Bosnia after Natalia was attacked by one of the soldiers. Unfortunately, she was six months pregnant at the time and lost her child. Now the pair have two beautiful daughters and are truly thankful to be here in St. Louis. Natalia commented a few times about how friendly everyone here is. Natalia also stressed how helpful the International Institute has been to her and many other Bosnians in finding jobs, housing, and helping with anything else that has come up in their lives. Natalia wanted the Americans to know that the Bosnian people are very hard workers always thinking about their family and the future.
In my efforts to educate myself, I realized how important it is for Americans to support the Bosnian immigrants. We can easily do this by going into their shops and learning about what they do. All of the business owners welcomed us with open arms, as I am sure they would any American to come in. This is especially important now with the government ending refugee applications from Bosnians.
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Joshua Groboski is a professional web developer with four years of
experience working with local firms, and an aspiring photographer.
While he's generally bound to his cubicle, you might bump into him
wandering the streets of St. Louis, camera in hand. If you see him, say
hello and have a picture made! You may see more of his work (and post
your own) at www.EyePoppinPhotos.com.