Class member Beedemariam Kassaw, Co-Owner Alemnesh Mengesha , and Executive Director Gwen Van Laeken pose for a picture.

Leadership Rochester’s 2023 class was invited to share a unique lunch experience at a key local restaurant, and the timing could not have been better. Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant on Mt. Hope Avenue is owned by co-owner Alemnesh Mengesha and her sister Aster Mengesha. Class member Beedemariam Kassaw “BK”, brought forth the idea of connecting his Leadership Rochester class with this small local business. Beedemariam is passionate about community and supporting local small businesses, particularly those connected to his Ethiopian heritage.

The class enjoyed a family stype Ethiopian meal together at the restaurant. Beedemariam gave the class a background on Ethiopian culture and fellow class member, Mai Abdullah, taught the class how one shares a family style meals in Ethiopian and similar cultures. Abyssinia was an excellent choice for a lunch venue, as the traditional Ethiopian family style lunch opened doors for conversation about community spaces. But as luck would have it, the class visit occurred on a pivotal day…

The night prior to the class visit, Abyssinia and other nearby businesses in the plaza, were broken into. 13WHAM Fox News Rochester covered the story. The owner Alemnesh , was incredibly stressed having prepared meals for the class and she worried the event couldn’t take place. But Leadership Rochester didn’t let this upsetting episode, prevent them from visiting. Beedemariam went to the scene and helped clean up. The class followed soon after. And, during their lunch, the class came together to support the business in their time of need. The class quietly collected donations that they then presented to Alemnesh , in order to help with the funds that may be needed to replace the window and the theft from the night prior. 

At Leadership Rochester, we believe it’s important to make a direct impact by patronizing and supporting small businesses. And by supporting local minority and women owned businesses, we can each multiply our local impact.