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World Mart to open doors Saturday

Nathalie Nkashama stands outside the World Mart along Diagonal Road. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)1 / 6
Nathalie Nkashama is pictured inside the World Mart in Worthington. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)2 / 6
Pictured are food items within World Mart. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)3 / 6
Pictured are plantain chips in World Mart. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)4 / 6
Pictured is a bottle of tea available at World Mart. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)5 / 6
Pictured is an energy drink available at World Mart. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)6 / 6

WORTHINGTON — There’s nothing quite like comfort food, but for many African immigrants in Worthington, the right ingredients needed for traditional home cooking aren’t available locally.

That will change starting this weekend.

The World Mart — owned and operated by Worthington resident Nathalie Nkashama at 920 Diagonal Road — will open its doors Saturday, offering a variety of traditional African food items.

“This is just the beginning; the hope is to have each ethnicity represented in the future,” Nkashama said. “But for now, the need is for an African food store in Worthington.”

A large portion of the store will feature east African food, as Ethiopians make up a majority of the area’s African population. The World Mart has all of the ingredients needed to prepare traditional meals such as injera, a staple meal for east Africans, or fufu, a plantain mixture popular in west and central Africa.

“Right now, people drive all the way to Minneapolis to get this food,” Nkashama said. “That’s a lot of money for gas and miles, but you’d rather drive miles to get your comfort food than eat whatever is available.”

Nkashama interviewed community members to find out which items would be the most popular, and she will adjust her lineup depending on what sells the fastest.

In addition to food, the mini-mart will feature jewelry, clothing and hair extensions.

Nkashama was born in the Congo but lived in several west African countries while growing up, as her father, a United Nations worker, relocated often. Along her travels, she learned how to prepare a variety of African dishes — her favorite meals typically include cassava leaves.  

Nkashama got her bachelor's degree at Hamline University in St. Paul. After working at a domestic violence shelter, she went on to coordinate for the homeless shelter People Serving People for seven years.

“I loved working there, I loved seeing the result in changing people’s lives,” she said. “But I was working evening shifts, and I needed more time with my children.”

Nkashama moved to Worthington in June 2017 to work as a child protection social worker with Nobles County. She quickly became enamored by the city’s cleanliness, quiet atmosphere and beautiful lake.

“It’s just different and I just fell in love with Worthington,” Nkashama said, adding that it might take some time to get her big-city family to do the same.

The World Mart will be open Monday through Saturday.