DEARBORN — For Abe Hachem, the feeling of donating free footwear to people living on the impoverished continent of Africa is indescribable.
His business partner and brother-in-law, Oussama Masri-Zada, shares the same passion for charitable causes, and says giving back simply “feels good.” They’re both owners of Mid America Shoes and Accessories, a worldwide footwear distributor founded in 2001. For them investing time in charitable work is an obligation, not a choice. "Someone needs help, you have to help them, that's how I think," Hachem said.
Additionally their philanthropy extends beyond Africa, into Detroit, other states and to various continents where free shoes are shipped out to assist those living under poor conditions.
The company has about 100,000 square feet between two wholesale warehouses in Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan. It specializes in closeouts, hash-lots, store returns, and used shoes. Its operations consist of sorting, grading, and packaging products. It exports to a diversified customer base throughout many countries on four continents: Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America.
The shoes are real, and there are up to 50 brand types such as Adidas, Lacoste, Diesel and Harley Davidson for all ages.
Many of the products at the Dearborn location are still being sold in stores, but when companies discover they have too many in stock they're eager to get rid of them. The company's 20 member veteran staff are experts in the footwear business, and always keeping up to date with trends in the industry.
In Detroit and other parts of Michigan the shoe distributor offers free accessories such as gloves, hats and sometimes boots to charities including the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries and St. Vincent de Paul. It also collects donations on behalf of the Cancer Federation in California.
|The inside of one of Mid America Shoes' warehouses where footwear and accessories are shipped out overseas.|
This year Hachem's charitable efforts were acknowledged by the White House, where he was invited for an evening and joined 50 other goodwill ambassadors from around the country to meet U.S. President Barack Obama. He’s also received an award for charitable work from one of the nation’s premier Arab civil rights groups.
“When I help someone and I go to bed, I feel good. I feel like I did something…," Hachem said.
It was affected by the 2008 economic downturn, and cut back on purchases, but still managed to overcome the national crisis.
Hachem came to the United States in 1989. He says you have to take big risks in order to be a successful businessman, and he's taken plenty. "In business you have to take risks. You can't take a risk, you're not a businessman. You can't see success without taking risks."
Originally a civil engineer with a master's degree in business administration Zada was a management consultant before getting into the shoe industry. Locally he's involved with Arab American organizations.
Zada says the business will continue growing steadily. "I can say 10 years from now it will be huge," he said.