NANDI Africa has a mission to be a store where everyone always feels welcome, and its recent additions are helping accomplish that mission.
Recently, NANDI Africa, located at 1018 Mebane Oaks Road, added an organic smoothie bar and a Yoni spa to the store. They are letting local vendors sell their products in the store and are also hosting ‘After 5’ events for the community every other Friday.
When Esteria White, owner of the store, opened NANDI Africa, her vision for the store was for it to be a welcoming place for everyone, which is especially important in a rapidly growing city like Mebane. White runs the store with her two daughters, Tabitha and Eddie.
“I’m here seven days a week, and everyday we get new people that have moved from California, up north, somewhere,” White said. “They’re moving into a community, you want them to feel comfortable. You want them to walk into the store and say, ‘Oh my, this is unique and different but also inclusive.”
NANDI Africa offers a wide array of products. From soaps to paintings, oils to clothes, sculptures to hats – they have it all, and the selection has even grown since vendors began selling there. White explained why the decision to open up her store to local, independent vendors.
“There are a lot of people that lost their businesses and they might not have a place to sell their goods. I wanted to create a place where they can come and sell their goods,” she said.
White added that the store sells goods from overseas, and all those profits go back to the people who made the items.
Adding a smoothie bar and Yoni spa to the store, as well as the bi-weekly events, was done to increase its appeal by making NANDI a more inviting, comfortable place, a unique, open place where folks can gather.
“People can come here and get to know each other and get to try things that they have never tried before or get to see things that they have never seen before,” White said.
On top of being another reason to spend time in the store, the smoothie bar uses all organic ingredients, is dairy-free and sugar-free, using honey and agave as sweeteners instead.
“The reason why we opened up the smoothie bar was we want different people to come in, when they look at it from outside, they look at it and maybe think it’s an African store or it just doesn’t have things for everybody,” White said. “So, we wanted to create it to let people know that it’s open for everybody and, secondly, to help [everyone] to eat better.”
The Yoni spa is a small, cozy space in the back of the NANDI store where folks can come to relax, to unwind, to heal. The spa is also a way for White to share her roots with her fellow Mebane residents.
“So, everything mainly that I do is about healing, I come from a traditional family of healers,” White said. “My parents, my grandparents, they are all traditional healers. The little things that I learned from them, I try to share with my community here.”
The pandemic was hard on NANDI Africa. White said she almost lost the business because she was ineligible for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan as she had no staff at the time. To make ends meet, White has worked a second job as an overseas consultant from 2:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for a while now.
“It’s tiring, it’s five days a week, but I still have to pay rent, it’s not cheap to have this store,” White said. “That’s one of the key reasons we wanted the community to know about it, so that they’ll be able to come and support.”
White moved to the United States from Liberia 29 years ago, during the First Liberian Civil War. She then moved to Mebane around 15 years ago and her work prior to opening her store is actually what inspired the idea to create NANDI Africa in the first place.
While in college at North Carolina Central University, White started a nonprofit called Diaspora Alliance NC. The nonprofit’s goal is “to help immigrants and refugees assimilate into the culture in America and, at the same time, educate America about Africa,” White said. It is still active, and White is still involved.
In a way, White and NANDI Africa do a lot of the same work here in Mebane, introducing all types of folks to all types of cultures as the only store of its kind in the city..
To learn more about NANDI Africa, check out their Facebook page (NANDI Africa), Instagram (nandiafrica_) and their website (www.nandiafrica.com).