Abdul Saleem can be found greeting customers at the Colton Market six days a week. He has been running the store for the last few years, following in the footsteps of his father.
His parents immigrated to America from Pakistan in 1996. Saleem, who is the oldest of six children, vividly remembers the day his parents left for America when he was nine years old. He and his younger siblings stayed behind in Pakistan, cared for by their aunts and uncles, for three years.
When he was 12, Saleem and his siblings joined his parents in America, and he gained citizenship just more than a year later.
Saleem's father managed a convenience store in Portland for 10 years before he decided to go into business for himself. He noticed the Colton Market for sale, and he liked what he saw. In 2006, he purchased the market and signed a 10-year contract with the previous owners.
In 2016, when the 10-year contract was up and negotiations for a new contract with the previous owners became impossible, Saleem and his father pursued other means of refinancing. They were turned down at multiple banks before they finally found the right loan, which would allow them to continue doing business in Colton.
Saleem took over the market when his father's health began to decline. His father, who used to come into the store seven days a week, is still heavily involved in the operations.
Saleem said that the determination that it has taken to run the store comes mostly from his mother's side. But he also loves being a part of the Colton community.
"Believe it or not," Saleem said, "I lived in the city for most of my life, and I didn't exactly learn the American culture, the American tradition, until I came to Colton—to see how family works…and all the traditional stuff that people do during summer time, like going to fairs."
He continued, "Some of the best hearts in the world are in this town."
Saleem enjoys giving back to the community that he has come to admire. He donates to school sports and other causes as they arise. He has placed donation cans in his store to raise money for families who have experienced tragedy or hardship. He also enjoys donating the pig for Timothy Behrens's annual luau.
Though Saleem has mostly encountered kindness at the market, he has also experienced prejudice.
"I've been called names…like 'sand digger' or 'terrorist,' and stuff like that," Saleem said. But the names are nothing new to him. Over the years, he has learned to not engage because it leads only to more conflict.
"My mom always taught us to give people the benefit of the doubt," he said.
He also likes to focus on the folks who have been helpful to him, like the late Dave Fraijo who lent him a pump for his flooded basement, or like his dependable employees.
"Ms. Linda [Welch] has been here longer than me, and she's still working here," Saleem said. "She's taught me a lot of things—how to deal with community, how to talk to community, and many many things."
When Saleem isn't in the store, he might be playing basketball, working out at the gym or going fishing with his Colton buddies. He also loves spending time with his two children, who are four years and seven months old. After fighting to make sure he and his father could continue running the store, Saleem plans to continue serving the community at The Colton Market for many years to come.