When Madja Ritchie left her home in Jerusalem 15 years ago and landed in Spokane to pursue her international relations degree at Gonzaga University, she had no notion that working part time at Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle would end up bringing a “slice” of home back to her and Spokane.
“I’m from the Middle East and I’ve always wanted to have traditional, homemade Middle Eastern food here, but it was very hard for me to find something that fits my culture,” Ritchie said.
While working part time all those years ago, she would meet Dan Ritchie, whose family have been longtime owners of the Garland District restaurant.
And as soon as Dan was introduced to the food that Majda knew and loved, he was hooked.
With Dan’s experience in the food industry and Majda’s love and knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine, they decided to try and bring it to Spokane together via food truck.
Jerusalem Middle Eastern Cuisine opened in September 2020, a time that would prove to bring the first difficulties the couple would face.
“It was terrifying to open it during COVID,” Madja Ritchie said. “We were kind of discouraged as we lost a lot of big events that we thought we could make money on.”
Other challenges would follow.
“At first it was not knowing what was worth it and what was not, if we were going to make money that day or not because we make our food fresh, so what doesn’t sell we have to throw away. But you learn a lot from this business,” Ritchie said.
But their mission was more than worth it, and for Majda to represent her country, they pushed forward, finding what it takes to run the business.
“To be successful with anything, you have to love what you do and you need to love the industry, love to cook and love to serve people,” Ritchie said. “If you know how to do that then you can be successful.”
Majda also credited their relationship as being a key part of the operation, saying that while she tries to be organized while focusing on presentation and taste, Dan complements her perfectly being very smart, skilled at fixing things and getting everything organized.
Majda added: “He does everything I don’t want to!”
Eventually, events began to return, such as downtown’s Food Truck Friday and the Garland Market that they regularly serve.
Now the Ritchie’s have found success and stability, reaping the rewards that they sought from the very beginning.
“The most rewarding thing is people loving our food and learning more about my culture, seeing them enjoy fresh ingredients and homemade food,” Majda Ritchie said, adding, “Just to be known and see people learn, I want people to know that there is Middle Eastern food in Spokane other than gyros.”
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