Bosna Market & Deli
In an unassuming strip mall off Broad Street, there’s a sign of great generosity. A paper sign on the doors of Bosna Market & Deli welcomes all into the small deli, where one is greeted by cleanliness and order. A friendly girl walks around the counter to meet with us while the owner flashes us a smile and dutifully returns to the kitchen, hard at work for the day’s preparation.
But what captures our attention is not the blue and yellow walls or unusual menu items, but the generosity inscribed on the door, promising to share meals with those who can’t afford them. This friendly inscription sets the market apart as an unusual business with a powerful message.
The proprietor of this generosity is Sabit Selimovic and family, owners of Bosna Market. Originally from Bosnia, the family immigrated to America and have called Richmond home for about 18 years. Anyone visiting the store will find them to be friendly people with a fascinating heritage.
“My dad used to own a little market there as well,” Sabit’s daughter, Nersella, explains as we sit down at the little table. “It’s always been his dream to have his own store and bring Bosnia to America.”
And we believe he has been successful in this attempt. Everything from the décor to the menu points towards another land and gives customers a strong dose of Bosnian culture. Of course, this didn’t spring up overnight. Nersella goes on to explain the history – what started as a simple eatery eventually incorporated groceries, and a host of unique flavors as well. “We’ve added the gyro and Philly cheesesteak, some American food to incorporate into it.”
This may be an ideal choice for the less adventurous, but for the hardier they offer more traditional fare. If you’re ordering for the first time, some highlights include cevapi beef links and lpeinja bread, with onions and sour cream on the side. To garnish, she recommends ajvar, an eggplant- and pepper-based sauce.
And if you like the sound of this traditional home cooking, you’ll look forward to their upcoming endeavor. Down the strip, they expanded into a fully realized Bosnian restaurant. Smiling, she explains that Bosna Restaurant is “a full-on restaurant with dine-in or carry-out, and this will be just the grocery portion.”
At this time, Sabit finishes up in the kitchen and joins us for some deeper questions. A longtime resident of Richmond and proud native of Bosnia, he has a unique perspective on coming here and reflects on the random chance of their arrival: as they left Bosnia, their destination was decided by a stranger signing off on their paper. However, this seeming whim of fate that brought the Selimovics here hasn’t changed their sense of locality. “I feel like I’m born here,” Sabit reflects. “I’ve been here 18 years and never changed from Richmond.”
But they certainly haven’t forgotten their heritage. Reflecting on this transition, Nersella put it well: “Some people, when they come from other countries…prioritize learning English and stuff, but my parents never did that…they expected us to learn English and adapt, but they also spoke Bosnian at home and made sure I never lost my Bosnian side of me. They love our food, and love eating our food.” She laughs. “Whenever I want to go out, they’re always like, ‘oh, our food is better.’’
Her father echoes this sentiment. When speaking of Bosnia, his eyes light up. “Everything is good.” He fondly remembers the friendship and food of his native land, arguing that their cuisine is the best. While this claim may be challenged by those equally proud of their own ethnic fares, it is unmistakable that Bosna Market brings a sense of culture, heritage and pride uncommon to the area.
“It gives you a little bit of a taste of Bosnia without actually having to go there,” Nersella says proudly. Bosnian food, television, and decor create a comprehensive atmosphere, allowing customers – who range anywhere from Croatian, Serbian, Kosovan, to American-born – to experience this culture in a way that is both ethnic and local.
Yet generosity sets them apart even more. When asked about the sign on the door, Nersella explains, “Yeah, that was my dad’s idea. When we came here, we were refugees and we basically had to start from the bottom and build our way up to where we are right now. So I guess he’s trying to give back to people who gave us the foundation to start this business.”
And they have given back, in so many ways. Businesses like theirs are inspiring because they celebrate their home and make Richmond a more complex, diverse city in the process. So those seeking culture, heritage, and tradition, with a twist of local flavor, should take note and stop by for a brand new experience.
Visit the Bosna Market & Deli and the Bosna Restaurant at 8030 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA.