Sid Sobhi’s business philosophy is basic:  “You’ve got to be locally relevant.  Be genuine, be about your community.”

Walking that talk, the 30-year-old manager of East Dearborn’s newest Starbucks began a campaign with the head office in Seattle to convince them that Dearborn-specific coffee would be a big seller. “It takes time,” he admits.  “In a company this size, you’ve got to do a lot of division crossing—you’ve got to make some noise for your voice to be heard.”

The noise paid off, and in honor of Ramadan, holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Starbucks of East Dearborn has introduced a Ramadan Date Frappuccino, a scrumptious blend of date juice – the traditional Arab fast-breaking fruit - with Starbucks coffee beans, milk and ice and topped with a swirl of rich cream and date drizzle, giving it a distinguished Arabic taste.

The unique flavor might have caught on anywhere, but particularly at Sobhi’s location on Michigan and Oakman, a neighborhood which is largely first and second generation Lebanese, Yemeni and Iraqi. Nearly 85% of his customers are Arab American, and many of those follow the strict edict of Ramadan, which entails a total fast from food and drink between sun-up and sundown.  “We start getting really busy as our customers break their fast.  Dates are usually considered ‘the’ food with which to do that, so the date frappuccino is a huge seller then.”

 An addendum to the Fairlane Car Wash, Sobhi’s Starbucks contains the nation’s only enclosed, state of the art drive-thru decorated with stucco murals painted by local artisans.  Sobhi stands at the entrance as dusk falls, counting the cars as they begin to line up, many containing drivers in traditional Muslim dress.  “We’ve streamlined the drive-thru and average less than a minute per customer,” says Sobhi proudly.

Marketing is key to the success of any endeavor, but particularly the food business in Dearborn, where countless mom ‘n’ pop storefronts offer meals, groceries—and coffee.  “You’ve got to have your niche,” says Sobhi.  “Stand out from the crowd.”
We agree, so here’s our offering to Sobhi, a freebie marketing slogan:  “If she won’t meet you for a date, maybe she’ll meet you for a date frappuccino…”


Russell Ebeid

Flavors or the Arab World December 2nd at the Rock Financial Shwplace,
Sponsored by