By Jordyn Grzelewski
Back in 2011, downtown Youngstown was a shadow of what it is today.
The revitalization that’s taken place in recent years began with a handful of business owners who invested in downtown.
Among them was Amer Adi Othman, known locally as Al Adi, who opened Downtown Circle Convenience and Deli on West Federal Street in 2011. In 2015, he opened an adjoining hookah bar.
Now, 71/2 months after Adi was deported to Jordan, he and his wife, Fidaa Musleh, have decided to sell their downtown businesses. Musleh announced the news in a Facebook post Wednesday and one of the couple’s four daughters, Lina Adi, confirmed it to The Vindicator.
“After 8 years in downtown Youngstown, my family and I have made the decision to sell Downtown Circle and Hookah,” Musleh said in her post. “I will be joining my husband overseas as we continue our lives there. We would like to thank all our patrons through the years, those who supported all our businesses, who made us part of the community, who embraced us.”
Adi was deported at the end of January after a lengthy fight to stay in the U.S., where he lived for nearly 40 years.
Adi came to the U.S. on a student visa when he was 19. He settled in San Diego and married his first wife, through whom he received a green card. The two later divorced.
He and Musleh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, met and married after he moved to Youngstown. A three-year stint overseas invalidated Adi’s green card.
Although she later recanted it, Adi’s attempts to remain in the U.S. were complicated by an affidavit his first wife signed in 1990 that claimed she married him so he could stay in the country after his student visa expired. Petitions Musleh filed to get Adi a green card were denied.
After Adi exhausted all of the legal avenues available to him, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, sponsored a private bill that prevented Adi’s deportation. The situation changed under President Donald Trump’s administration when deportations were no longer delayed because of a private bill.
Adi learned he would be deported about early January, setting off a whirlwind month in which community members rallied around him, legislators attempted to intervene on his behalf, and his deportation was briefly stayed. Soon, however, Adi was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His family got a call from him Jan. 29 while he was awaiting a flight from Chicago to his native Jordan.
Adi is now settled in Amman, Jordan, where he has family. Musleh and two of his daughters have been to see him, his daughter Lina said.
Now, Musleh is preparing to move there permanently.
Lina said the decision to sell the family’s businesses is “bittersweet.”
“It hurts that this is the way things happened, but hopefully there are more plans for Youngstown for my family,” she said. “We thought that this was the right decision, that it was time to let it go.”
The family is in the process of handing the business over to the new owners, who Lina said are moving here from New York to operate the convenience store and hookah bar. She said the buyers are a family with whom the Adis felt comfortable entrusting the stores.
The details of the sale were not yet public record Wednesday.
As for the Adis, Lina said everyone is adjusting to the life changes they’ve faced. The family will be scattered, with younger daughters Lana and Rania in college, daughter Haneen living overseas, and Al and Fidaa soon reunited in Amman. Lina plans to remain in Youngstown and operate an auto business with her fiance that her father closed when he opened Downtown Circle.
“It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s weird when you’ve been with your parents your whole entire life and been in such a small community,” she said.
It was for that community the Adi family had a message Wednesday.
“A really big thank you to everybody in Youngstown who supported our business all these years and who were there our time of need,” Lina said. “We can’t thank you enough. There’s no way to pay everybody back for all that love they gave when we really needed it.”
Musleh concluded her Facebook post with this: “You all have been the most beautiful part of our journey and we will never forget you. My husband and I have always had a vision for Youngstown, we’ve always seen the potential and the heart of this city. Our wish for Youngstown is that it continues to grow, flourish and become the place we all know it can be.
“Thank you for everything.”