Near the corner of Wilmington and Hargett Streets lie one of the few retail businesses downtown – Taz’s. The business pictured above is one of three convenience stores owned and operated by Taiseer
Taz Zarka. Although Taz’s stores (three of them now) may seem new, he’s been a part of the downtown retail scene for seventeen years. Prior to opening the first convenience store a few blocks down, he had a stake in the convenience store previously in that location.
Taz has a very a contagious optimism in everything he speaks of. Whether it is his wife (who was one of the first 50 employees of SAS), his children, his business, or downtown – he has a lot to share, and a lot of grand ideas. You can’t help but smile as you hear him talk.
Three years ago he decided to progress from an investor in downtown retail to being the small business owner himself. When asked why this area over others, he responded with
It’s a good investment. Downtown is the safest place to be during an economic downturn. His education probably played a small part as well. In 1987 he graduated from Shaw University with two degrees, one in Business Management and the other in Accounting. Perhaps because of this, he offers all Shaw students 10% off all purchases.
Taz with Officer Keen, the most photographed police officer on this site.
A lesser known fact (to me, at least) was how late he keeps his store open. Most nights he is open until midnight, and on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays he keeps the place open until three a.m. I can tell you as a former restaurant worker, there’s nothing like having options at that hour to get some essentials after work. He concedes that he will never be a competitor to Food Lion, but that isn’t his vision. His aim is much more focused and specialized. He is opening a fourth business on Wilmington Street, and he has recently decided on the name: The Tazmahal. It will focus on food and dining and not convenience items. The aspect he is most proud of is a butcher
you get to know by name along with a fifteen ft. long charcoal and wood grill. The lower level will be the market–consisting of meat and fresh produce, as well as items such as pasta, rice, bread, cheeses, and spices. As he put it,
Things you cook with in your home. The upper level will be a lounge area, where you can order and enjoy foods prepared on the lower level.
Taz also demonstrates an immense appreciation and love for his customers. Of the 5 or 6 groups of people that came in while I was there, he knew the name of at least one person in each group. He compared himself to a bartender, noting that he remembers what they drink in addition to what type of cigarettes they smoke or what kind of snacks they prefer. One way he demonstrates this affection for customers is in the hours he keeps. He points out that there are a few places in the area that serve as housing for seniors, and he is the only place within walking distance for them. He stated:
I get so many hugs and kisses from the older people for providing a service no one else is. I think because of this God is smiling down on me and my family and keeping us safe and healthy.
Look for the Tazmahal to open in about five months time. In the meantime, stop by sometime for friendly conversation, some home essentials, or the diverse beer and wine selection.