EL CAJON, California: Ramadan is here, but with people stuck at home to avoid coronavirus, it's far from business as usual for Muslim shop owners in El Cajon, California’s “Little Baghdad.”
The hectic times for the owners started with customers’ mad dash for food and sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic.
"They shopped enormously since one or two months, anyone who had the ability and the capacity to shop, filled his spaces, and the raise in the prices made people feel weak and this had a negative effect on our business, which obliged us to release some workers because there’s no work anymore," shopkeeper Karam Kamal said. "We are prepared for Ramadan like every year but I do not expect that Ramadan will be the same."
Now, sales are down by a reported 85 percent from before the shutdown and the entrepreneurs say they're hoping sales will increase during the Holy month, but the outlook is uncertain.
Saad Jemaa, manager at the King Price Market said: "The market is very weak and almost no one is shopping for the items related to the Holy month, we wish that this fact changes in the upcoming days, so that people can move freely away from this threatening virus."
There has been a silver lining for some business owners. While their customer base usually consists of the city’s 100,000 plus Arab citizens, some Halal markets are seeing increases in takeout sales up to 30%, thanks to new communities of customers.
Alaa Al Saadoun, the owner of Al-Anwar meat shop said: "They’ve been asking for the meat more than before. Especially as they believe it’s cleaner, Americans have started asking for the Halal meat."