A Native from Syria, Johnny Akkary arrived to the States in 2013 in search of a new opportunity. Instead of waiting around for a paycheck, Akkary decided to jumpstart his family business by opening the Diridon Market in San Jose. In our interview with Akkary, we learned about the changes to his business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SJEarthquakes.com: Tell us a little bit about why you care so much about your customers during this time.
Johnny Akkary: “We come from the countryside in Syria where community and reputation is very important. This is the way we grow. We can’t have a bad reputation. It’s not in our bible. Americans are very good people but you still have to treat them well. That’s why we have to respect everyone who comes into our store.”
SJEQ: How have your operations changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
JA: “Thankfully, our hours are back to normal. We have a concern over safety; not just for ourselves but for our community. We’ve been spending much more time cleaning and sanitizing inside the store. Being overly cautious is much better than being negligent.
Even if you don’t get sick from going somewhere, sometimes you get nervous. I felt the same way when going to a store and I didn’t return. Luckily, we’re taking the time to provide a clean environment as much as possible because we have to do our part so we hope everyone else is doing the same to protect the community.”
SJEQ: What has been the most challenging aspect of working under these new conditions?
JA: “We have to turn off our air conditioning because we do not want the air to only circulate inside our store. It’s better to be warm and have our fans running and our doors open in case someone is sick and we didn’t know about it. It’s not easy to do that but we’re happy to do it.”
SJEQ: What have been the positives for you?
JA: “The positive has been that we can reopen. People here have reacted in such a supportive way; it’s really appreciated from everyone here. We have good relationships with all of our neighbors and we really feel like we’re a part of this community. When we reopened, a lot of people came to our store so it was a good feeling. If the same thing happened to me in my home town I couldn’t dream of having this type of support from the community.”