She came here in 2001. He followed a few years later. Today, the husband-wife team from Liberia set up shop in Lansing's Old Town to serve other immigrants and shoppers by providing African goods and cuisine.
"We saw a need for someone to open a store here," says Sam R.E. Dixon, co-owner of Chiere International Market
at 304 E. Grand River. "We decided to be that one."
Sam and his wife, Sue-bunch Cecilia, opened what they describe as Lansing's only one-stop African market in November, and cut the ribbon in late February. The 1,100-square foot store carries food, decorative arts, and clothing from African countries including Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, La Cote d'ivoire and Nigeria.
The Dixons were inspired to open the store after observing the large population of Lansing immigrants and refugees carpooling once a month to Ann Arbor, Detroit and Chicago for African goods and products.
"Everyone we met said they were willing to go as far as they could to have the kinds of foods they had back home," says Sue-bunch. "We decided to bring the food here."
The Dixons work with suppliers in Chicago, Maryland, New Jersey and New York to stock staples like Nido Powder Milk, Plantain Fufu Flour, Liberian Fresh Palm Cream Butter and Pure Red Palm Oil. Fresh foods and produce include sweet potato leaves, okra, cassava, fresh meats and fish, as well as high-quality organic and locally sourced groceries. Other specialty items include rice, seafood, spices, canned goods and juices. All products, the Dixons say, are USDA and FDA inspected and approved.
In addition to food products, the Dixon also carry African arts and crafts and a line of beauty supplies, skin creams and African soaps. The goal, they say, is to make the shop appealing to anyone interested in African culture and products.
"People hear about us and call to see what we have," Sue-bunch says. "Once, when I told an MSU student that we had African pop, he said 'don't say anything else, I'm there.' People here really appreciate what we carry, and everyone is so supportive."
Source: Sam R.E. and Sue-bunch Cecilia Dixon, Owners/operators, Chiere International Market
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor