03. Basha Road

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    In the year 1932, the name "Bashas" first appeared on a building; however, the history of the Basha family in America actually began in 1884. The 48-year span from 1884 to 1932 laid the foundation for that first Bashas store. For the Basha family, these years were a period full of risk and reward, disaster, triumph, hardship and resourcefulness. It was a period that shows just how much effort it takes to achieve the American Dream.

    It all started in 1884 in Lebanon. A young married man named Tanuis Basha heard a fabulous tale of a country where the opportunity was limitless. He then headed for New York and established himself, before sending for his family. In New York, he opened an import and export wholesale store, and earned enough money to send for his son, Najeeb.

    Najeeb, who was only sixteen at the time, joined his father in New York in 1886. Soon after, the entire Basha family moved to America. In New York, Najeeb met Najeeby Srour, the daughter of another Lebanese immigrant, and they married in 1901. It was a perfect match, two resourceful people with a mind for business. Najeeb learned most from his father, and gradually took over the business, as his father's health was failing. On the other hand, Najeeby's father's business never did as well as Najeebs, and she spent her childhood supplementing her family’s income by selling lace to the rich New Yorkers.

    As the business grew, many Lebanese people would come to Najeeb Basha for loans. One day, the business burned down. There was no insurance. What with the loans he'd made and the loss of the business, Najeeb faced financial ruin.

    Najeeby was tired of the stress from the business and the crowded house. She missed her parents who had returned to Lebanon, and she started thinking about her only relative in America. Her sister had moved to Arizona and had written letters to her about all the prosperity she was having in the mining towns. The wide-open spaces of the American West called to her relentlessly, so she pleaded with her husband Najeeb to move.

    In 1910 Najeeb and Najeeby Basha went to the Congress Junction in Arizona, to join his wife’s sister and her husband, and to begin and arrange a new merchant contract. Soon after that, Najeeb took the children and a five day train trip to the west to begin their new life. Things in Congress Junction weren’t going as planned and he wanted to move again. He did this by bringing his whole family into the community of Ray. He then rented a three bedroom home from the Kennicott Mining Company to provide shelter for his family. Again there was tragedy that struck the Basha family. A man who was angry with Kennicott set fire to the whole place, dumping gasoline; the almost brand new store went up in flames.

    Once again the family moved. This time Najeeb moved his family to a Lebanese community within the town of Sonora. He had learned his lesson from before, and this time, while building his Basha store, he built it out of brick. At this store he sold a broad range of products in order to serve the community. He sold cinnamon sticks, beans, and rice, and sugar bricks. He also sold lace, ribbons, shirts, dresses and shoes. It was close to what today we call Wal-Mart.

    Najeeb continue to build a family with his beautiful wife, who gave birth to eight children, six girls and two boys. As the children grew older, they were taught to help the family business to become strong and plentiful. Edna, the oldest of the girls, realized there was no future for the family in Sonora. Najeeby’s sister lived in Phoenix, and asked her to come live there. Najeeby refused to move, but that too backfired on him. There was yet another fire, which burned down the Basha store in Sonora. After this fire, Basha decided to purchase two pieces of property in 1920 in Chandler. He built a store on east Boston Street and home on north Washington Street.

    Najeeb and his wife began to manage the stores well on their own. Najeeby was running the Chandler store by herself, while learning the native Pima language. She never learned how to read or write. She created her own symbols and ways to manage the books in the store. Ike Basha would “clean up” the credit ledger after school.

    In 1929, the family’s financial status was stable enough for Basha to sell the Sonora store in order for the family to be together on a full time basis in Chandler. Their son Eddie would sell the fruit that grew from the trees that surrounded their home, door to door, showing his ability to run the family business. Not long after the family came together, Najeeb’s diabetes became worse and he died on June 7, 1932.

    As time went by, even though the family missed their father extremely, they knew that they had to find a way to survive. A man by the name of J.G. Boswell, who had developed a huge cotton industry in California, had expanded into the town of Goodyear.  Mr. Boswell wanted a store for the hundreds of employees that worked for him. So Ike and Eddie Basha Sr. took this opportunity to build a store for Mr. Boswell in 1932. The store that they built became the first ever Basha Grocery Store. It allowed the employees to shop and have access to the products that they needed, giving the community a sense of belonging, and productivity.

    Seventy years have gone by. It has been a dramatic journey. “As we look to the future, we can't help but think of our past. The spirit and determination that led us through since 1932 are as strong as ever, infusing us with confidence, pride and enthusiasm as we regard the road ahead and prepare for new opportunities.” This quote by Chairman Eddie Basha Jr. is significant because it explains the struggles and hardships that the Basha family went through to become a successful food store chain today.

    Today, Basha’s business has doubled in size and includes AJ’s Fine Foods and Food City, as well as the Bashas stores. There are a total of 144 stores. The Basha family has been able to accommodate many cultures in society with the diversity of their locations in Arizona. Their ability to stock the products their customers need have also helped them become successful and has given them a reputation for great customer service.

    The Basha family has always involved their community with their success. They have many programs that include "Thanks a Million," a fund raising program, the Bashas’ Benefit Golf Classic, an annual Food Drive, a Health Styles Program and environmental programs. Bashas helps the homeless, not just during holidays but every day, by providing food and basic necessities needed for unfortunate families in Arizona.

    By Dan Arrington, Amy Bennett & Nicole Begaii

     

    ♦Exhibit Home 04. Chandler Boulevard ►
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