A popular local food business was confronted on Thursday over racist social media postings written by one of its key employees.
Majdi Wadi, CEO of Holy Land Brand Inc., which operates a Middle Eastern grocery store, restaurant and deli in northeast Minneapolis, apologized for the 2016 posting and revealed that it was written by his daughter, Lianne Wadi, the company’s catering director. She was fired.
“Not only as a CEO, but as a father, it is my duty and responsibility to ensure my family and Holy Land team members all demonstrate high integrity and moral compass guidelines,” Majdi Wadi wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “We will now work, harder than before, to better ourselves through education, volunteering, and open conversation and forums with all our community to ensure we leave a positive impact.”
Lianne Wadi issued her own apology via Instagram.
“I was a teenager at the time (although my youth is not an excuse) and wasn’t educated on how the words I chose would affect and offend others, including myself,” she wrote. “Over the years, I have grown and I have took it upon myself to learn and understand how my words and actions can affect other people.”
After their apologies were posted, an additional series of racist, anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler postings were revealed on a Twitter account with the name @LianneWadi. That account has been deleted.
Reaction has been swift. On Thursday afternoon, the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis terminated the lease of Holy Land’s 14-year-old grocery, butcher shop and deli.
“The comments on those posts do not in any way reflect those of the Midtown Global Market,” reads a statement. “In fact, they are in direct opposition to the reason Midtown Global Market was created and opened in 2006: to be a shared community space and cultural center that celebrates the diversity of its business owners, guests and visitors. In no way does Midtown Global Market tolerate any words, actions, or activity that do not support our global community.”
On Thursday afternoon, Seward Co-op removed Holy Land products from its two Minneapolis stores.
“On June 4, our staff were made aware of hateful racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic social media posts from principal staff at Holy Land,” reads a post on the co-op’s Facebook page. “We removed their product from our shelves as soon as we learned of this. Seward Co-op will not accept additional deliveries from, or work with, Holy Land in the future.
“As a consumer-owned cooperative with equity and inclusion as core values, we condemn this behavior and Holy Land’s brand. Product immediately pulled from our stores’ shelves has been offered to local food banks/food shelves, with full disclosure about why we are donating these particular items. We will identify other local vendors who better align with Community Foods values to provide hummus and other related products to Seward Co-op.”
On Thursday, Lunds & Byerlys announced via Facebook that it had “made the decision to remove the Holy Land products from our shelves.”
On Friday, Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville also discontinued its relationship with Holy Land.
“We stand with the community in the fight against oppression, systemic racism, and inequality,” reads the post on the co-op’s Facebook page. “We are a diverse community of member-owners with the shared values of equity and inclusion. Holy Land products pulled from our shelves will be donated to the Open Door food shelf with disclosure of why we are donating these items.”
With the help of his parents, Wajdi Wadi, a Palestinian immigrant, started the family-owned enterprise in an 800-square-foot storefront in northeast Minneapolis in 1987. His brother Majdi joined the business eight years later.
The company’s Central Avenue interests include a grocery store, restaurant, deli, butcher shop, catering facility, wholesale bakery and the state’s first hummus factory. That hub of activity has played a major role in the commercial district’s revitalization.
“Holy Land is more than just a small business in the Northeast community,” said then-Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak in 2009 at the opening of Holy Land’s hummus factory, which replaced a crime-ridden bar. “It is the heart and soul of Central Avenue. Holy Land has helped spur a remarkable transformation.”
Holy Land also has an outpost at the Minnesota State Fair and a licensed presence at MSP airport.