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‘A social garden.’ Worlds collide at Louisville’s bustling International Mall

Two distinct worlds are on full display on the walls of the African coffee shop.

On the left, Al Jazeera Television shows scenes of war and strife around the world, interpreted in Somali. On the right, Marie Osmond’s latest weight loss miracle, in English, competes for attention.

World’s collide daily at the International Mall at Eighth and York streets in Louisville, where Somali merchants have joined together to meet the needs of their community.

It’s a one-stop shop for all your west African needs. A place where you can purchase camel meat, or fine traditional Arabic clothing. You can also find home accessories, furniture, a daycare, cab service, tax assistance, and henna tattoo artists.

At the center of it all is Abdinoor Ismail’s bustling coffee shop, serving Somali pastries, tea and coffee, with most items priced at only $1. His shop explodes with activity whenever soccer games are on the screen. Young men talk smack over their favorite teams or play soccer video games when no real contests are televised.

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Ismail arrived in Kentucky in 2009 after first fleeing his home in Somalia for Kenya. He works seven days a week at his business and sends money to his wife and six children in Nairobi.

“Most Somali’s are business people. We have shops, restaurants and a grocery here at the mall so we help them get what they want,” he said. “Their cultural food, clothing and everything they can get in our country.”

But it wasn’t always like that. Much has changed since Abanur Saudi and his family arrived in Louisville in 1996, some of the first Somalian refugees in the city.

“It was indescribable. I spoke no English, but there was no choice. We wanted a safe place for our children and a better place to live,” Saudi recalls.

He went on to work for Catholic Charities of Louisville and started the first Somali grocery in Louisville. He now owns a grocery distribution company that serves the mall.

“The International Mall is a social garden, a community gathering place, not only for Somalis but other Arabic and Indian residents. People want to come to the mall even if they don’t buy anything,” Saudi said.

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Louisville resident Chad Rehnberg is a regular.

“I’ve been coming here for years, meeting amazing people. It’s one of my favorite places,” Rehnberg said.


For more information about the International Mall, 737 S 8th St., visit their Facebook page,, or call 502-561-8870. 

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