You are a trove of opportunities…

Dear Toledo,
It didn’t take long before my younger brother and I realized that our lives would be taking a very different path than the one we had envisioned for ourselves before our parents moved us back to Toledo. After growing up in Lebanon and spending countless summer breaks in the Glass City, we were very excited to finally get to call Toledo home.

The years we spent in high school helped shape our future experiences. Starting high school in a different country, getting used to a totally different environment, and developing new friendships were among the many novel realities we had to face.  Our years at Bowsher High School provided us with the medium to ‘assimilate’ into an environment that really did not seem too ‘foreign’ to us.  Ultimately, we found ourselves sharing similar values and interests with new people we met. Perhaps that welcoming environment is what promotes inclusiveness and acceptance and allows newcomers to thrive and succeed.

After high school, we knew that there was more for us to love and explore in Toledo. People very often undermine the significance of having such a diverse college campus in our own backyard. It only felt natural for us to pursue our college degrees at the University of Toledo. There, we both developed a profound understanding of what ‘community ‘meant, and how important it was for us to capitalize on the experiences we made and the relationships we developed in this city to build our careers and plan our future.

The two of us took two completely different career paths that were ultimately centered on making Toledo home. Our goal was to achieve our maximum potential here regardless of any limitations traditionally attributed to midsized cities in the Midwest. Our different interests led me to a career in medicine and my brother to a career in accounting and finance.

After graduating from medical school, I found it natural that my priority was to come back to Toledo to pursue my residency training in Internal Medicine and later fellowship training in Cardiovascular Diseases. I take pride in the fact that I am able to practice medicine in the same neighborhood I grew up in and serve the community that welcomed us with open arms.

My brother, on the other hand, had completely different plans. What started off as a small investment in a local struggling business turned into, three expansions later, Toledo’s most known and go-to spot for Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine and groceries. Our father’s keen vision of bringing a change to the local ethnic foods scene, coupled with my brother’s determination to build a successful career in Toledo, has allowed them to celebrate 12 years of success in Toledo. The culmination of this occurred 18 months ago, with the opening of the expanded Middle East Market and the new Sidon Lebanese Grille & Bakery.  Through his success, Bahaa has been instrumental, in my opinion, to contributing to the diverse cultural milieu of Toledo.

Little did we know, at first, how as two young men who had just moved to Toledo, we could pave our way to success and make a difference in our community. In fact, the secret may have not been entirely within us, but rather in our then-new environment, that allowed us to grow and provided us with opportunities that promoted our success. As we reflect on our thoughts about this beloved city, we cannot say it enough: Thank you! We are proof that “You will do better in Toledo”.

Imad Hariri

Bahaa Hariri 

We caught up with the Hariri brother at the family restaurant, Sidon Lebanese Grille and Bakery, which Bahaa, with their father Mahmoud, owns and runs. The restaurant is named after Sidon, also known as Saida, the third largest city in Lebanon, where their family is from. In addition to being one of the best restaurants in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food in Toledo, Sidon Lebanese Grille and Bakery, & the Middle East Market, regularly employ refugees that have recently resettled to Toledo. Imad is a practicing physician in Toledo and an active member of several local and national organizations including the Toledo Sister Cities International Board of Directors and the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon Sister City Committee.

Immigrant Heritage Month stories are in partnership with Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, a local initiative housed in the Board of Lucas County Commissioners in partnership with Toledo LISC to advance an inclusive and global community.