This Lebanese-Brazilian Built a Little Food Empire

It is 10 o’clock in the morning. Aldemir Abdala runs from one side to the other. He visits all four of his stands at the Municipal Market in São Paulo in a few minutes, always paying attention to the movement of clients. He crosses Cantareira street, to where his warehouse is and checks the new loads of products that have just arrived.

He then returns to the market, talks to a bank manager, solves bureaucratic problems, answers the telephone that rings incessantly and still has time to smile at clients who walk by the establishment. In this hectic routine, among scents and flavors, he finds time to tell his story.

Abdala started working early, at the age of six. He comes from a Lebanese family that, according to him, has a talent for trade. Banca do Ramon (Ramon’s Stand) has belonged to the Abdala family since 1933.

"My schooling, my college was in trade," he prides himself. The teachings of his forefathers, however, were developed by Abdala. "I saw that the stand could grow and made serious investment," he states. The small fruit business of the 1930’s became a large retailer. Today Abdala sells over 4,000 items.

The change took place over ten years, and was daring though planned. First of all the businessman changed the design of his stand, adding products, then hiring new employees – there are now 69 – and, little by little, he acquired other spaces in the Market.

He also established a delivery system that, incidentally, goes very far. The products from Banca do Ramon travel the whole of Brazil. Orders are made by telephone and delivery is by airlines or bus. "We always seek what’s best for the client," stated the businessman.

Everything was reached with great effort and with no free time. The four stands open at 05:00 am and do not really have a closing time, according to Abdala.  It is common for the businessman to leave the Market after 07:00 pm.

"When the client movement ends – at around 06:00 -, we start a new journey," he explained. He and his brother-in-law, Adonis, of Greek descent, take the orders of restaurants in São Paulo, to be delivered during the next day, and also orders from all around the country.

The orders, amazingly, are taken without the use of computers. "Banca do Ramon is an old-fashioned store," jokes Abdala. Inventions by Bill Gates and company do not enter the store, for the time being. Everything is done "by eye", and Abdala has a good eye.

He knows exactly what is missing on he shelves, what needs to be replaced. "I supervise everything that enters the stand," he explains. He has a lot of work. Among the 4,000 items are foods from all four corners of the world. There is caviar, squid ink, boar salami, olive oils, Italian truffles, and much more.

Abdala is also rumored to be a good cook. He confirms the rumor. He cooks paella, Italian dishes and, of course, cod – of which he sells large volumes at Banca do Ramon.

"I like cooking and that helps very much when talking to customers," he says. It helps so much that it is common for Abdala to receive phone calls from clients interested in recipes, after ideas for a special dinner. He teaches with pleasure.

Charm, incidentally, is one of Abdala’s secrets. To him, those in trade must always be charming to customers. It is also necessary to be versatile: to keep to tradition, but to innovate when necessary.

Banca do Ramon is an example of the good use of modern tools – like delivery – in partnership with old-fashioned trade, which believes in a good chat with the client and that products are guaranteed by the owner of the store.

Anba – www.anba.com.br

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