A decade after leaving Iran to search for new opportunities in the United States, Omid Hashemi is pursuing his version of the American dream: to own his own bakery.
“It was his dream job always,” said his wife, Mahshid Alipour Hashemi. “He loves cooking and baking.”
In a couple of weeks, the two will open Aria Bakery in the former Sweetly Scrumptious space at Normandie Center at Central and Woodlawn.
Bread will be a big part of the business. Alipour Hashemi had an inspiration for it on her first morning waking up in Wichita.
She joined her husband in Wichita in December 2014, arriving at night. The next morning was cold, and Alipour Hashemi asked her husband for fresh, hot bread like she was used to eating every morning in Iran.
“Mahshid, you don’t have that here,” Hashemi said to his wife.
Though Alipour Hashemi was disappointed as she thought about the breads of her home country, which she calls Persia, she also immediately saw a positive side.
“I said, ‘OK, that’s a good opportunity.’ ”
Alipour Hashemi has a master’s degree in business, and she said, “I’m always thinking of how to make more money.”
That, and she wants people to experience bread, such as Barbari, which is something of a thick flatbread that’s crispy on the outside and topped with sesame seeds.
“That’s the best feeling to have fresh bread in the morning,” Alipour Hashemi said. “Everyone needs that fresh bread.”
She said she never thought she’d bake anything, but she remembered her grandmother’s bread recipe.
That’s because her grandmother once told her, “Learn it.”
Alipour Hashemi followed the recipe and served her husband the bread when he got home from his job at Pizza Hut.
“Who brought this bread?” he asked.
Alipour Hashemi said her husband was overwhelmed that she’d made it.
“Mahshid, let me hug you,” he said. “I feel like I’m in Persia right now.”
She then began sharing her bread with friends.
“Everyone was so happy.”
Alipour Hashemi is going to quit her job as a Great Clips stylist to work at the bakery with her husband, who also is quitting his Pizza Hut job.
Aria also will sell pastries such as baklava and traditional Persian cookies and cakes.
There will be eight seats in the business, which likely will be open from 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week.
Sheri Proctor, a Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Alliance broker who handled the deal for the Normandie space, said she first started hearing about the family’s bread from the sponsors who helped them get to Wichita. She didn’t taste it until the closing for the bakery.
“I don’t even eat bread,” she said.
Proctor tried it, though, and found it amazing.
“I had to have another piece,” she said. “Now I can understand why all their friends were so supportive.”
Proctor said she encouraged Hashemi and Alipour Hashemi to also use alternative flours for people with allergies.
Aria will open by mid-September at the latest.
Hashemi said he already feels the joy of having his own business. He said he wishes he spoke English better so he could more fully put his excitement into words.
“I’m so happy.”