african store

Mamadou Diallo

What first began as plans for a corner store is now a market on the east side of Madison that sells unique and authentic ethnic products from various African countries.

The idea was born after the Diallo family moved from New York to Madison in hopes of finding a more family-friendly environment, Mamadou Diallo said.

“[We moved] because of our family. We have a big family,” Mamadou Diallo said.

In New York, the Diallos had run a similar business that sold various items such as pocketbooks and shirts.

After moving to Madison, the Diallos initially intended on owning a corner store, but soon abandoned that venture after the couple noticed customers preferred to shop at stores like Woodman’s for basic goods, Mariama Diallo said.

“I started by having a grocery store, something for the neighborhood, but no one was buying and all of our products expired. We had to keep throwing everything away. That was nine years ago,” Mariama Diallo said.

Now, the Diallos’ African and American store is flourishing, she said.

The establishment offers mainly clothing and food, consisting of staple ingredients found in multiple African countries.

“We have a lot of different food from African countries, very different food,” Mariama Diallo said. “We have everything from Africa.”

Although selling everything from Africa would be an ambitious endeavor, the Diallos said they do try to offer as wide a variety of food as possible. However, even with their constant search for new goods, the line of merchandise inevitably has some gaps, Mariama Diallo said.

There have been occasions when a customer comes into the store and does not find a desired product, whether due to rarity or oversight, Mariama Diallo said. She said they take note of the product and if it can be found, order it for the future.

In respect to food suggestions for college students, Mariama Diallo said everything is worthy of recommendation, but a purchase would completely depend on the shopper’s national origin and knowledge of African cuisine. For those who struggle with cooking ethnic food, she said the cooked lamb is popular.

The store also offers an educational experience as an elementary school group tours the store every year, asking questions and learning about African culture, Mariama Diallo said.

Mariama Diallo urged people to just step inside the store if they can, saying it is the only way to truly appreciate the diversity of the products.

The store has been a growing presence in the community, Mariama Diallo said. Gradually, people are becoming more aware of the ethnic products they offer.

The Diallos said they hope more people will come to peruse their unique selection of African goods.

“Those who know us appreciate us. People come from another country and they come in our store and they’re happy,” Mariama Diallo said. “Everyone who comes here is happy.”