Jamaica variety store fulfills American dream

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Jamaica resident Mohammed Khan wanted to have his own business and to be his own boss.

"I got tired of working for somebody," said Khan, who spent more than 10 years as a mechanic in Nassau County.

But after months of research and planning he is the owner of a new variety store in downtown Jamaica, which specializes in selling a diverse array of household items.

"I started thinking about it earlier this year," said Khan, who now walks from his apartment to Max Dollar Variety Inc at 147-14 Hillside Ave.

He sells cleaning items, bathroom, health and beauty products, as well as cosmetics, candles, baby items, toys, and party accessories. Almost every item in the store costs 99 cents, said Kahn.

He believes the everyday items will attract customers from the black, Indian, Pakastani, Bangladeshi, and Latino communities in Jamaica and Jamaica Hills.

Khan, who emigrated from Guyana 16 years ago, said he visited communities throughout Queens and Brooklyn looking for a neighborhood in which to open a business and decided that the best place to open a variety store was right in his own back yard.

"Marketing research indicated a definite need in the area for a store specializing in our type of merchandise," he said. "And it's great. I don't have to look for or pay for a parking spot."

He researched the crime statistics in various neighborhoods and decided his location was as safe as any to operate a storefront business.

"I had to ask myself if I would feel safe at night," he said.

Kahn proudly pointed out the yellow-colored banner sign on the front of the store. Both an American and Guyanese flag are displayed on the sign because Kahn's wife and co-owner of the store, Nazeema, is an American citizen while Kahn maintains his Guyanese citizenship.

"I want people to see the sign when they come out of the subway," he said.

The store is right down the street from the Sutphin Boulevard stop on the F subway line and is around the corner from the State Supreme Criminal Court Building.

"I want them to walk this way and not turn down Sutphin Boulevard," He said. "Like any business it's slow in the beginning. You have to make it work."

Kahn got help in setting up shop from a nationwide firm Liberty Opportunities, which helps small businesses get started.

He said the firm helped him space out the aisles and merchandise, in order to maximize the use of space. He also said the firm, which his discovered while reading Entrepreneur Magazine, organized a grand opening celebration for him earlier in the summer.

While few skills transfer from working on cars to managing a business, Kahn said the most important skills he learned were patience and dealing with the general public.

He will also be getting help from his wife's cousin, Reaaz Baccjus, also a Jamaica resident and Hillcrest High School student.

"While enjoying a unique shopping experience, you will find that the quality, variety, and price will make your visit well worth the effort," Kahn said,

Max Dollar Variety, Inc. is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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