The path to the front door of Botan Market in South Nashville is lined with more than $200,000 worth of inventory, piled up in trash bags, sitting in puddles of mud. Flash flooding poured more than 3 feet of water inside the family-owned Kurdish grocery and convenience store. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“It’s just more than a convenience store,” says Zindan Berwary, a close friend of the owners. “It’s been kind of like a second home for a lot of people.”
The Tovi family has owned and operated the market for two decades.
“They were the first of many that followed them. They kind of gave us visions of doing more,” Berwary says. “They gave us opportunities to pursue dreams.”
Berwary assesses the mounds soiled food littering the front parking lot of the market. He says, “It’s devastating to see it like this.” He describes the scene as “a mountain of food that’s just going to waste.”
“Putting all that product into these trash bags and then just piling it out here. It’s like a punch in the gut.”
That hit is especially hard with the start of Ramadan in just under two weeks.
Evin Tovi, one of the owners, says the revenue they make during Ramadan is comparable to what they would make in four regular months. “That’s where we make our money,” he says, “and now it’s gone.”
The flash flooding hit Botan Market with a series of compounding losses. They had ordered a significant amount of stock in preparation for the holy month. Massive bags of basmati rice now sullied with creek water lay in piles outside the store alongside crates of fruit and bins of lentils and nuts. They now have to replace that inventory, and repair any broken machinery. And every day that they spend cleaning up is a day they can’t make any income.
THE NASHVILLE KURDISH COMMUNITY IS IN NEED OF VOLUNTEERS TO HELP BOTAN MARKET.
BOTAN MARKET IS ONE OF THE LONGEST STANDING MARKETS WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY AND WAS TRAGICALLY DEVASTATED BY THE FLOOD/RAINSTORM THIS WEEKEND. THEY ARE IN NEED OF COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS TO HELP CLEAN UP.
— Kurdish Professionals (@kurdishpros) March 29, 2021
You can still see where water pooled up past the third row of shelves throughout the aisles of the store, leaving dirt on all the unopened products. Massive machines were tipped over or broken. The dumpster was swept up and carried dozens of yards away through two fences into the woods behind the market.
In the meantime, volunteers have been coming out to help the store recover, and a daughter of one of the owners has set up a fundraising page. Still, says Helan Tovi in the post, “The damages will take months to repair and it will be an extremely costly matter.”
And unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the family has been hit by major flooding.
Back in 2010, the creek behind the market flooded, too. Evin Tovi says this time some of the physical damage was even worse. Tovi lamented the lack the of help they’ve been getting from the government. It’s still unclear what, if any, additional help might be offered for small businesses.
For now the owners and volunteers are working to help the store reopen as soon as possible. Tovi says he doubts that will happen in time for Ramadan, but Berwary says he and the others will do their best.
And looking ahead to future severe weather, “I guess the next step is just raise the building up, or do something about it or move to a new location.” Tovi says. “You just have to pray for the best. Hopefully this will never happen again. But it is what it is. It’s sad.”