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Yemeni family expands Lucky’s shop into multibusiness plaza

Lucky’s on Sycamore Street was a small but ambitious store whose owners were driven by a distressed community’s dearth of goods and services. It doubled as an all-purpose convenience store, even carrying CD players, and a popular wireless franchise, offering new service and repairs.

Now the 800-square-foot business has expanded into a 5,000-square-foot shopping plaza with space for four businesses and at least 25 potential jobs.

Its first tenants are a new convenience store and a Cricket cellphone store. Work on the two remaining spaces will finish next month. A Chester Fried Chicken restaurant will take one, and a national franchise is being sought for the remaining space, equipped with a drive-through.

The expansion gobbled neighboring vacant lots, dramatically improving the look of the corner of Sycamore and Herman streets.

“We want to provide opportunities to the community,” said Ali Majid, co-owner of the family-run business that built the plaza. “We could have just expanded the store, but a bigger store is not the same as a plaza with different stores. A plaza will bring the community up and encourage other people to open businesses. There are many vacant lots around here and a lot of need.”

The Majid family’s $400,000 investment is one of many examples of Yemeni immigrants, longtime East Side corner store operators, graduating to bigger ventures. Another Yemeni-owned plaza was completed last year at 1097 Broadway. It has attracted six new businesses, including a pharmacy, ethnic grocery store and a Domino’s, which opened in May. A meat store is also slated for the Broadway plaza.

Abdul Majid, Ali’s older brother, opened Lucky’s in 1985. In 2000, it became an authorized Cricket dealer. Its tight quarters were crammed with customers grabbing loaves of bread and milk, and customers paying cellphone bills or upgrading smartphones.

“The store was always crowded, everybody was complaining,” Ali Majid said. Construction began in July, but the original wasn’t demolished until August, when two spaces were completed in the plaza to avoid an interruption of business.

The neighborhood was welcomed to the new plaza recently with Lucky’s annual back-to-school drive.

More than 500 free backpacks and school supplies were given to neighborhood kids, Ali Majid said.