A couple of months ago, someone on Facebook conducted a survey, asking: What is lacking in Easton? A significant number of people responded that a wider variety of ethnic foods would be a welcome addition to the mid-shore area. That wish is about to come true. On Saturday, September 14, 4 Sisters Halal Meat and Groceries on 600 Dover Road will be having a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new food trailer. To be known as 4 Sisters Kabob and Curry, the trailer is attached to the store and will be selling Indian and Pakistani food.
Was this event years in the making? Are there a lot of investors? Not quite. Shortly after opening the specialty grocery store in October 2018, the family-owned business began catering their traditional food. This led to take-out platters and meals served on Tuesdays and Fridays to a growing and appreciative lunch crowd. Customers who signed up were alerted via text on that day’s selection. As demand began to increase, the family decided the time was right to expand their business. They considered and rejected physical restaurant space due to lack of funding. Eventually, their search led them to Ryan Groll from Sprouts who had put his food trailer up for sale.
But to what some may see as luck and things falling into place, to Shahida Perveen, the mother of the 4 sisters named in the restaurant, this opening will be the fulfillment of a life’s longing—the old-fashioned achieving-the-American-dream-kind.
It begins with Perveen, a single mom. A woman who came to the United States from Pakistan, looking for a better and safer future for her family. Perveen was fortunate. Her parents were already living in the U.S., on the Eastern Shore, and were able to sponsor the family. With no knowledge of the English language, Perveen began working at a KFC on Kent Island. She would get a ride to work at 9 am and return at 11 pm, while her children were taken care of by their grandparents. Eventually, the family found housing on Kent Island and Perveen switched jobs, working at 7-11, and running a flea-market stand in Delaware on weekends.
Until she had a stroke.
During the three months in rehabilitation the eldest daughter, Andleeb, at the time 16 years old and on summer vacation, took over her mother’s shift until Perveen was able to return. The twelve years at 7-11, were followed by seven years at Easton Shell gas station. These were not easy years for Perveen who suffered two additional strokes and was also diagnosed with diabetes. Throughout it all, she kept on working, doing catering on the side, providing for her family, and saving whatever she could.
Which brings us to an idea she had about starting her own business, preferably a restaurant, where she could put her talent and passion for cooking to use. With help from Andleeb, now married with children of her own, they started looking for a place in Easton. One problem: no one would finance Parveen’s dream. “We tried all of the banks,” said Khan. “Nobody wanted to give us a dollar, nobody.” So, they took a risk. They couldn’t afford to start a restaurant, but they did the next best thing. They opened a Middle Eastern Grocery store that sold the foods Perveen and her family grew up with. Exotic spices, like methi and cardamom, naan and paratha breads, basmati rice, halal meats including goat, beef, and chicken.
Word got around about Parveen’s talents as a cook which led to the food trailer idea. “We’re not trying to copy anyone,” says Andleeb, “We’re not trying to be another pizza place or another burger or barbecue joint. We’re bringing a specialty that comes from our heart and our homes.”
As with the store, the trailer will be named after Parveen’s family—the daughters for whom she had sacrificed and who now were helping to ensure the success of the business. Says Andleeb, “You know, it’s not just a name–4 Sisters. There are actually four sisters, and they’re alive, and they’re existing, and they all have a story to tell.” Not surprising is that the sisters’ stories show how much they learned from their mom. Andleeb, who when not at the store with mom, is studying for her nursing degree and raising two children. Shanza on full scholarship and in her 4th year at the University of Maryland will be pursuing a medical degree. Areej, also on full scholarship, attends Washington College with a dual degree in political science and business. Bushra, the youngest, helps out at the store and just started 9th grade.
Something else besides the name will appear on the trailer. The words: The American Dream. Perhaps, in the end, this is a tribute to a woman who came to the United States from Pakistan, looking for a better and safer future for her family. A woman, who through hard work, insurmountable odds, unrelenting determination, and yes, a little luck, found that she was able to give her daughters, a new home, a family business, and a lifelong lesson on perseverance.
A typical menu for the food trailer will feature a platter with two sides. Items such as Butter Chicken or Lamb Masala, Vegetable Samosas, curries, etc. The family promises to have something to please both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 10 am-9 pm; Friday & Saturday 10 am-10 pm, and Sun 10 am-8 pm.
Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.