Almeda and Co. turned fitness into retail


Sadio Abdi

Maryan Farah arranges dresses while checking out the items in stock. Farah always double checks to make sure things are in their right place.

Sadio Abdi, contributor

   In Columbus Square’s plaza a variety of different shops are all alive with their own patrons, but one seems to stand out: a tan, slightly angled sign reads, “Almeda and Co.” The alarm beeps when customers enter through the glass door. Glittery, gold Eid decorations line the storefront window with sun beams bouncing off of them. Soft white chairs, meant for customers who want to lounge and ponder, sit adjacent to the entrance. An assortment of dresses, hijabs, and abayas in an array of vivid colors and textures lie within. Racks are adorned with modest clothes. 

   Maryan Farah, the store owner, gives a warm smile as customers enter, standing next to skincare products that have English and Arabic labels. This tower of products may seem messy, however, the clutter around her feels right and extends a feeling of warmth. Sounds echo: the bustling of chatter-filled customers browsing or changing in the changing room. Some walk in front of a giant mirror asking if the dress looks right on them, pondering if they should exchange it for another. 

   “Inviting the community and neighbors is great,” Farah said. She loves having a place where people are welcome and feel safe. Westerville needs a modest clothing store. Look no further than Almeda and Co.

   A couple months ago this store was the complete opposite. Huffing and puffing of tired patrons exercising would’ve filled the space. There would’ve been booming music on loud speakers and people reminding each other not to skip out on their meal plans.

   COVID-19 had stopped Farah’s patrons from working out. According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association’s article “2021 Global Report Details Pandemic’s Impact on Club Industry”, found membership was down 50 percent during the height of the pandemic and is still down about 25 percent a year later. Maryan Farah’s personal training and health spot Nafaqo had to close because the number of clients lessened. Usually this is the point when stores close and leave the spot for good, but Farah had an idea. 

   “[We need] extra income,” Farah said, when people stopped showing up. She just had to think of another idea to earn it. A new brand was needed and an aesthetic to base it off of.

Zahra Abdi, the co-owner had it all planned out. Although it was a bit hard at the start to come up with both the brand and aesthetic, she eventually came up with the perfect fit.

   To re-brand stores, the owners need to reestablish their brand’s audience, identity, vision, values, and plan a successful launch. Ignyte Branding’s data shows that businesses usually spend 10 and 20 percent of their marketing budget to rebrand.

   “So we landed on the name, Almeda, which is an Arabic name that means ambitious. We want to have with us always that we can achieve more and do more and have a higher standard no matter what we do,” Abdi said. The logo has a capitalized A- with a swoop connecting it with the rest -meda and co. Then it has a warm light brown color surrounding it.

   Now that the logo, aesthetic, and most importantly the name was decided, renovations could start. Before renovating the space, Nafaqo, the nutrition place, was very black and industrial looking. The team wanted to add more color into their familiar bleak atmosphere. Farah, Abdi, and Maqdis Yussuf, another worker, put their minds together to make it a fresh, inviting space. 

   “Putting it together was fun,” said Yussuf, as the three of them found a common ground on the aesthetic. 

   It was a fun experience to repaint and search for different furniture. Then came the clothes options. They needed something to fill the empty racks that were all over the store. “[Our goal is to bring] them beautiful and timeless pieces,” said Abdi. The customers needed nice things to fill their closet.

   After the store was stocked, they needed something to reel in the customers. The grand opening occurred in November 2021. 

“We used flyers and social media,” Farah said. As reported by Review 42 article “Latest Social Media Marketing Statistics in 2022” from March 7, for 90 percent of marketers, social media marketing increased exposure and 75 percent had increased traffic.

   TikTok is a tool they also take advantage of, “Social media is one of the biggest marketing tools we have,” said Abdi. Abdi runs the Tiktok and Instagram account that shares the same name as the store. 

Whenever Farah meets someone, she tends to bring up the location and her store. That it is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Another thing they do is sales on holidays. Farah tends to always have free snacks out when customers buy things.

Once customers enter, they feel comfortable because of the atmosphere and level of customer service. “When the customer walks in, you have to greet them. Welcome them and make them feel like this place where they’re shopping is very comfortable and pick up a conversation with them. Ask them what they like and what they don’t like. And just show them what looks good on them. And, you know, let them try on what they like,” Yussuf said.

Since business has picked up, the team wishes to expand in the future. “When we came up with the name, it was like, ‘it’s Almeda and Co.’ and then in the future, we will turn into many things,” Yussuf said.

      They want to stay where they’re at right now, but in the future, if their sales are achieving success, expansion is a viable option. They wish to expand into children’s clothes because there is a lack of modest fashion in the community.

 “We have noticed there is a gap for modest clothing for girls, I would say fourth grade to middle school, not having nice, modest, trendy clothes that they would appreciate and like to have in their closet. So as far as expanding, that’s where we would like to be and hopefully it’ll be positive,” Abdi said.

   While opening a clothing store wasn’t a vision that Farah had even a year ago, the creation of this store has helped her develop a new passion. Health was and still is a huge part of Farah’s life, but Almeda and Co. has grasped her attention. The pandemic allowed Farah and her team to explore new options and the outcome and future of this store and all that it can become remains an exciting possibility.