International food market adds variety to Bowling Green

Ryedh does many jobs around the supermarket. After his father’s business closed in Miami, his family moved to Kentucky to start fresh. “My dad got tired of the big city and lost the business,” Ryedh said. “He was vacationing with some family in Bowling Green and liked the location and decided to move here.”

Griffin Fletcher

With a dedication to serving ethnic populations in Bowling Green for over 10 years, one business depends on diversity.

This is evident not only by the business’ name, the International Supermarket and Cafe, but by its owner, Ali Miah.

Born in Bangladesh, Ali traveled to Singapore around the late 1970s to become a sailor and travel the world, which he said was his dream.

“I make money, I travel,” Ali said. “My dream come true.”

Sailing took Ali to areas such as the Indian and Pacific oceans as well as the Black Sea and Bay of Bengal, but he eventually moved to the United States in order to run his own business. He said he believes the U.S. is special for the opportunities it presents to foreign-born residents.

“America is a blessing,” Ali said. “America is a land of freedom, a land of opportunity.”

Opening his first international supermarket in Miami in 1986, Ali owned and operated the business until a few months before the Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, according to an article on Ali lost the business as well as his home in Miami in 2007, forcing him and his family to move elsewhere.

“It was very bad,” Ali said. “I was lost.”

However, as Ali had visited Mammoth Cave National Park only a few months before his business closed, he said moving was an easy decision. He and his family officially moved to Cave City in 2007 and moved to Bowling Green only months later.

Ali said he recognized a need for ethnically diverse food options in Bowling Green, which inspired him to open the International Supermarket and Cafe on Broadway Avenue in 2007. Before he opened the business, he said many people of ethnic minorities in Bowling Green were forced to drive to either Louisville or Nashville to find culturally representative products.

“Bowling Green is a very mixed people,” Ali said. “Nobody had this kind of food. I brought something here nobody had.”

As for why Ali decided to keep his business food-based, he said he believes food is vital to maintaining both one’s health and culture.

“Food — number one,” Ali said. “No food — you don’t have a life.”

In order to represent various cultures, the supermarket offers selection common to a number of Asian, Indian and Latin cuisines and more. In keeping with a spirit of diversity, Ali speaks seven languages, including Bangla, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic.

According to 2018 information from the United States Census Bureau, between the years 2013-2017, 13.6 percent of Bowling Green’s population was foreign-born, and 16.5 percent of Bowling Green households kept residents who spoke a language other than English while at home. A non-native English speaker himself, Ali looks to communicate with customers in their native language when possible.

Along with ensuring all customers are comfortable while shopping at the supermarket, Ali said he aims to make quality products and reasonable prices a standard.

“Our intention — quality and affordable price,” Ali said.

He said he is able to make this possible by keeping the store open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. He said the supermarket closes for no holidays, as he wants it to be open for whoever whenever.

“Day of my death, it will be closed maybe one day,” Ali said. “Never close — it is a public place.”

In order to keep the supermarket in operation, Ali receives help from his son, Ryedh Miah. He said he believes his son’s assistance keeps the business “united.”

Now 26 years old, Ryedh was born in Miami and said he started going to work with his father when he was just a kid.

He said he believes the business is a special addition to Bowling Green’s ethnic community, as each is dependent on the other.

“It means a lot,” Ryedh said. “It’s good to provide them a little bit of a home.”

In considering the future, Ali said he hopes to eventually install a cafe within the supermarket. He said he intends for the cafe to feature vegetarian and seafood options and to be affordable for all customers as well as students.

With experience in the international food business for the past 30 years, Ali said he’s very grateful to be a man of not one but many cultures.

“My life is a beautiful story,” Ali said.

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].