There’s a new grocer in Clarksburg but you won’t find your traditional canned corn and frozen burger patties here.
On these shelves shoppers can pick up ndole leaves or cassava flour, goat meat or sorghum. Joseph Njiaju’s All African Caribbean Latin Food Store here gives his customers a taste of their homeland and introduces new palates to new flavors.
Since Njiaju of Clarksburg officially opened his All African Caribbean Latin Food Store in late November, he’s heard from longtime customers from his previous store calling in their orders from as far away as Pittsburgh, Pa., and Richmond, Va.
But he also wants people nearby to know that he’s now in business in the Historic District selling fresh, frozen and dried foods from Africa, the Caribbean and Spanish-speaking countries.
“For my neighbors, it’s like a surprise to them,” he said with a laugh.
Some people, however, have already found their way to the store at 23341 Frederick Road at the north end of town.
Sherry Thompson, who works in Clarksburg, stopped by on Monday to pick up some spices to cook a Caribbean-style turkey for Christmas.
“I’ve never had it, and I’ve never cooked it … but since I’m hosting Christmas, I figured I’d go all out,” she said.
A native of Nigeria, Njiaju emigrated to the United States in 1996 and moved with his family to Clarksburg in 2005. They were one of the first families to settle in the town center area north of the Historic District.
He opened a store in Washington, D.C., in 2005, and later a branch in Gaithersburg, which he operated from 2007 to 2009, until he sold it to another grocer.
Recently forced to vacate his D.C. site to make way for a hotel, he decided to open the Clarksburg store close to his home in a building formerly occupied by an organic food store.
Both a wholesaler and retailer who sells to caterers, restaurants and walk-in customers, Njiaju buys through brokers and also makes trips to Nigeria and Ghana to buy foods that people from Africa living in the U.S. can’t typically find in a supermarket.
Among the items — cassava flour, yams from Ghana, Indomie Noodles made in Nigeria by a company in Indonesia.
He also sells fresh and smoked goat meat used for stews and soups, including a medicinal pepper soup, as well as dried stockfish from Norway which only rich people in Nigeria can afford to buy, he said.
He sells frozen foods, including ndole (bitter leaves) from Cameroon, as well as bulk beans and grains, including maize, sorghum and barley.
Njiaju also sells European-made canned and packaged foods that Africans grew up with in their home countries.
Some examples are canned De Rica tomatoes from France, a non-alcoholic malted bottled drink made by Guinness called Malta, and Golden Morn cereal made by Nestle.
The store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Njiaju doesn’t have a website up yet, but the store phone number is 301-540-4100. There is parking off Frederick Road at the rear of the store.