a Demopolis native’s dream and the center of a mission-driven food service – THE WEST ALABAMA WATCHMAN

What started out as a “big business, an idea you might want to do one day” has become a reality for Sarah Cole. Not only did she open her own business, but she launched a non-profit association to benefit the inhabitants of her adopted city.

Cole, the daughter of Cleveland and Margaret Cole of Demopolis, worked in restaurants for many of her early jobs. The idea of ​​opening a restaurant was just a dream.

Sarah Cole

Cole earned her undergraduate degree at the University of West Alabama, and after earning her master’s degree in community journalism, she worked for the Anniston Star and the Huntsville Times. But she realized, “I really hate being on a computer.”

Taking a leap of faith, she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There she ran a farmer’s market and worked in a library and bakery. While she had friends in Pittsburgh and an active life, she realized, “I wasn’t part of that community. Pittsburgh, she said, was “a time of refreshment.”

So she came back to Alabama. “This is my home, and this is my community.”

Two years ago, she moved to Greensboro where she found and purchased a Victorian cottage that initially served as her home, kitchen and headquarters for her Abadir’s restaurant service. “It felt like everything was lining up.” She now works in a commercial kitchen in Greensboro.

Cole took two weeks to remodel the kitchen to suit her needs, then spent several weeks testing recipes she learned from watching her mother in the kitchen. In October 2020, she announced on social media that she was ready to invite people to try her blend of Egyptian and southern cuisine, “a nod to the way I grew up eating”, a- she declared.

His first customers ate for free, although donations were accepted to cover his costs. Since then, his business has spread far and wide. She opened pop-up restaurants at home, then in Selma, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Birmingham.

With the success of her business, Cole found that she used all the skills she learned in her previous job. “I do all the jobs I (ever) had at Abadir,” she laughed.

Sharing her skills with her hometown of Demopolis is also in the plans of the 2007 graduate of the Demopolis high school. She may start with a stall at the Farmer’s Market, but organizing lunches and dinners at pop-up venues is also in the future.

As she worked to grow her business, Cole was also looking for a way to connect with her community. She started the Black Belt Food Project, a nonprofit that works to create a stronger, more inclusive environment for children and adults in rural Alabama. Its mission is to provide greater opportunities for growth, nourishment and connection through food-based educational experiences.

Its partners include Project Horseshoe Farms, Auburn Rural Studio, Hale County Extension Office and Hale County Hospital.

This is all an extension of Abadir, she explained. Eventually it will be a full-service restaurant, but it will continue to be a “mission-driven restaurant,” she said.

Black Belt Food Project is opening Black Belt Kitchen, an educational center focused on food studies in Greensboro. The center will regularly host classes and workshops for people of all ages and backgrounds and will target multiple interests and issues.

Cole seeks to host workshops led by local, regional and national leaders and educators. She envisions students exploring food through preparation and lessons, nutrition programming, food history and cultural studies, and culinary exploration.

“We work with local organizations such as Greensboro Public School Systems, Hale County Extension Service and our local SNAP Benefit Center to ensure accessibility for all members of this diverse community,” she said. on the Black Belt Food Project website.

The organization also hopes to “provide food assistance services to those in need, offering more nutritious meals as well as access to better food options,” she said.

“We’re not trying to tell people how to eat,” Cole continued. “We’re trying to reconnect people to food in a way that’s different from what they’re used to.” She doesn’t use the terms “healthy” or “unhealthy,” she said. “Instead, we’re focusing on food, looking at it from all angles while working toward a more connected community.”

The Black Belt Food Project has found permanent space for its kitchen, “which is why we are looking for donations,” Cole said. “We have been actively working to purchase the property for four months and have been building the new space for two months.”

Anyone interested can check the project website for more information or log on to eatabadirs.com.