Naomi Girson | Staff Writer
Salem’s Market & Grill, a family owned business from Pittsburgh, is set to open a new market in the Hill District with the goal of combating food deserts in the neighborhood.
Inspired by the huge product demand for halal meats, Massaud Salem opened Salem’s Halal Meats in 1981 in Oakland.
Halal meats exclude pork and unclean animal products in the Muslim faith. Salem’s premiere store became popular among college students at the University of Pittsburgh because the owner was generous with his food portions and donations to the students.
With Salem’s hard work, he has been able to open a second location in the Strip District serving folks from all over Pittsburgh. Recently, Massaud’s son and acting CEO of the deli business, Abdullah Salem, announced plans to open another market.
“We have always been a mission-based company that values humanity as a whole. No one goes hungry. We are open 365 days a year, and on holidays, because somebody will always need to eat,” Salem’s website said.
In 2021, Mayor Bill Peduto announced that the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) was set to enter lease negotiations with Salem’s Market & Grill, according to the City of Pittsburgh website. The company’s new location will open at Centre Heldman Plaza where Shop ‘n Save closed its doors in 2019.
“Salem’s Market locating to the Hill District is a tremendous win both for Salem’s and the Hill District community,” said Councilman Daniel Lavelle in a news release. “It affords Salem the ability to grow and expand while providing the community with a much-needed grocery store and restaurant.”
Tony Carbino, a graduate student studying biomedical engineering, found his passion for combating food deserts while conducting his research for Duquesne’s hydroponic garden.
Much of food insecurity is located in regions of Pittsburgh where citizens have the least access to transportation, jobs, healthcare and a plethora of other parts of life that effect access to food.
“I think that this is a very complex and deeply rooted problem with very interwoven and interlocking causes. And I think the more, at least in my opinion, the more synergies that we have between those pathways the better,” Carbino said. “So we have in the City of Pittsburgh really wonderful people attacking this issue from the garden side of things, the community aspect, we have people that are attacking this issue from the grocery store and market aspect, we have people attacking this issue from the home delivery and services aspect.”
Not only will Salem’s Market & Grill put food on tables, it will also create more than five dozen jobs in the area and boost the economy.
The new grocery store and restaurant will bring considerable foot traffic to Centre Ave., which will help support efforts underway to build back Centre Ave. as a business corridor.
Long time customer of Salem’s Strip District location, Rashee Jihad, travels all the way from Cranberry for his Salem Market trips. For Jihad, the food brings him in, but the ambiance keeps him there.
“This is the Apple store of restaurants in terms of the experience,” Jihad said.
The manager at the Strip District location, Majid Akhtar, has worked at Salem’s Market and Grill for over 10 years. According to him, roughly 50% of the staff has worked there for about a decade as well. Akhtar feels that Salem’s customers and staff are a community.
“I don’t call people sir and ma’am when they come in. I call people brother.” Akhtar said.
He is excited about the Hill District location, and the predicted soft opening is tentatively scheduled for the second week in February. The size of the new market is about three times the size of the market located in the Strip District.
“The business is secondary, the primary mission is to serve the community up there [in the Hill District],” Akhtar said. “They haven’t been served in a while in the way they should have been.”