Catching up with Tom Friday’s new owners
By Sean P. Ray | Managing Editor
BRIGHTON HEIGHTS — It was in November that Alex Ansari and Ali Sajit took over Tom Friday’s Market, the grocery store which has been a staple business of Brighton Heights for decades.
Those first few weeks of ownership were something of a trial by fire for the pair. One of the most popular features of the market, which opened in 1955 and moved to its current location along California Avenue in 1971, is its wide selection of fresh-cut meats.
“Because we took the store in the busiest time of year — there was Thanksgiving and Christmas — Tom recommended that it was a good time to learn,” Sajit told The Chronicle, referencing previous owner Tom Friday Jr.
And learn the two have. Now with business slowing down after the hectic holiday rush, the pair are now looking at how they can improve the Tom Friday’s experience while still keeping the core experience which has made the market so beloved in the community.
While new to Tom Friday’s, the current owners are not new to running small businesses. Before purchasing Friday’s, they owned and operated Coraopolis Cash Market, and continue to do so alongside Tom Friday’s. Before that, both had experience working at gas stations, and Ansari worked at a fast food restaurant in Wilkinsburg in the past.
“I think for me the best thing is — and I don’t want to sound like a cliché — I like to talk to people,” Sajit said of why he likes being a small business owner.
As it stands, the pair are not planning any majorly radical changes to Tom Friday’s. Indeed, they even kept the same former staff and received assistance from Tom Friday Jr. during those holiday months, and they’ve gained a respect for how the former owner ran things.
“What we like in here is how he (Tom) does things,” Ansari said. “Locally we buy meat, beef and all those things, and I love the concept and I love the idea because it’s important to keep it basic, which I like about Tom.”
The cut meats aren’t going anywhere, and any changes are more so aimed at expanding what Tom Friday’s offers. For example, the pair would like to improve the range of produce offered at the market and more frozen foods.
“We have a very small section, but I think we can really improve that,” Sajit said.
Perhaps more audaciously, the two are aiming to allow online ordering, allowing customers to make their purchases at the Tom Friday’s website and pick it up from the store.
Ansari and Sajit also want to expand the home delivery service offered by the market. Ansari said the market currently employs only one delivery driver, limiting the range of the service. The pair hope to bring on more drivers and allow deliveries to a much wider area of neighborhoods.
In addition to these changes, Sajit said he is aiming to connect more with the Brighton Heights community. While neither man is a stranger to Pittsburgh — Sajit moved to the city when he was 15 and Ansari likewise did so in 2003 — Sajit said the Northside was an area he’s more used to passing by, and he wants to fix that, such as by getting more involved with the Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce and attending Brighton Heights Citizens Federation meetings.
Ansari thanked the community for their support during the transition, and said that he feels “blessed” to have a business partner like Sajit to help out. In addition to working together, the men are brothers-in-law. He further promised the pair would carry on the legacy of Tom Friday’s the best that they can.
“We continue the way Tom continued,” Ansari said. “It can be difficult if you try to do something Tom didn’t used to do, and we don’t want to do that.”
Tom Friday’s Market is open Mondays through Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 3639 California Ave. and can be reached at (412) 766-4500.