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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Zerabruk Abay & Tsige Meshesha

Nile Grocery & Cafe

Husband and wife, Zerabruk Abay and Tsige Meshesha, moved to Charlotte in 1999 in hopes of finding work in Mr. Abay’s chosen profession as a textile engineer. The couple had escaped political tensions in their native country of Ethiopia. Mr. Abay studied textile engineering in the former Soviet Union, and then the couple lived in Germany as refugees before moving to the United States in search of better opportunities. By the time the couple emigrated to Charlotte, the textile industry had declined and there was no work. Ms. Meshesha was baking injera, traditional fermented bread made in Ethiopia, out of her Charlotte home and selling to customers. Nile Grocery and it subsequent success was built on Ms. Meshesha’s injera.  The couple opened Nile Grocery in 2005 after noticing a lack of Ethiopian sundries and cultural food in the area. In 2010, they added the restaurant component and Ms. Meshesha began serving Ethiopian cuisine, including the traditional coffee ceremony. Today, she teaches others how to make injera, and the couple has created a vibrant community for Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike.

Date of interview:

Keia Mastrianni

Peter Taylor

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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