Majid Kormi, a new-to-Fredericton convenience store and restaurant owner, never thought a pandemic would hit right after he finalized his business deal.
“I started the business with no customers a day. Since that day, I’m just surviving,” said Kormi.
Kormi, who immigrated from Iran in 2017, finalized an agreement to open Regent Mart and Kitchen on April 1. His business has a convenience store as well as a restaurant that offers his native Persian food. Kebab and rice flavoured with saffron is one of the most common meals Kormi sells. He also kept a few Korean dishes that were prepared by the previous owner, when the location was known as Hannah’s Kitchen. Kormi also makes his own pizza dough and sells fresh, hot slices.
He started talking about purchasing the property in October 2019 and signed the first paper in December 2019 because he thought the location was in a prime spot. With the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University and The New Brunswick Community College campuses right around the corner, he projected a possibility of 10,000 students in the area.
Kormi and his family moved to Fredericton from Iran in 2017 for his children’s education. His original business plan was to come to Canada and set up a factory to manufacture gold since that’s what his and his father’s trade was back home in Iran. But after he researched, he realized there was no business for gold manufacturing in Fredericton.
Kormi worked as an independent car salesman for the last two years until he stumbled upon the Regent Mart and Kitchen location. He knew it would be a top-rated student area and went on to purchase the property.
Online classes equals less profit
When the universities nearby decided to implement online courses this year, Kormi said most students who were around did not come back to Fredericton. He said he’s frustrated because his main focus was the students he would’ve had as his customers.
Kormi said he still has to stock his store and his restaurant, but because of the lack of customers, he’s not making a profit. He still has his bills to pay at the start of each month, which has been difficult.
“Utilities, they don’t care. They don’t care. They withdraw their money by pre-authorized transactions. They don’t care whether you have it or not, they just withdraw the money,” said Kormi.
He is worried because he doesn’t know how much longer he will be able to stay open since there is no guarantee how many customers he will see in a day. Still, Kormi is hopeful that things might turn around.
“We have a very famous belief and expression in my country, ‘as long as it’s daytime, don’t complain because night hasn’t come yet,'” he said. “But I still have hope. You know why? Because it’s still day.”
Kormi said he’s also worried because there is no help from the government for small businesses. Regent Mart and Kitchen has not received any financial help – the only help was the principal payment being pushed back for six months.
Kormi said he contacted the government multiple times to try to get some answers on how they could offer help in any way but has been turned down each time because Regent Mart and Kitchen is considered a new business.
Kormi has no backup plan. The business plan he created back in October 2019 was set to last three to five years.
“I have nothing.”