Basha Dry Good Store
Lebanese immigrants Najeeb and Najeeby Basha arrived in Arizona in the late 1910s and set up a dry goods store in eastern Arizona mining towns. After suffering two different fires, they moved their family to Chandler and set up a dry goods store on the southwest corner of Boston and Washington Streets. It was the start of a grocery empire.
Backstory and Context
Chandler has a long history of savvy business people and entrepreneurs dating back more than 100 years. Several of those early entrepreneurs started businesses that are still familiar to us today. Foremost among those businesses is Arizona’s hometown grocery, Bashas’.
The story of the Basha family in Arizona begins with Najeeb Basha and his wife Najeeby moving to Arizona at the suggestion of Najeeby’s sister. The Bashas, who were Lebanese immigrants living in New York City, had heard of wealth to be made in the mining towns of Arizona. Desiring a change of pace from the urban lifestyle, they sold their New York business and opened a general store in Ray, Arizona. They soon had a thriving business. Unfortunately, an arsonist burned down a large portion of Ray, including the Basha store. Not to be deterred, the Bashas moved down the road to Sonora, where they opened another general store. Somewhat improbably, that store was also destroyed by fire.
Having had enough of mining town life by this time, Najeeb and Najeeby moved the family to the small town of Chandler. They bought property for a store on Boston Street and property for a house on Washington Street. The store was just west of Washington Street on the south side of Boston. Though the building no longer stands, the cement pad still sits next to today’s SoHo 63. Najeeby ran the Chandler store, which opened in 1920 and sold only dry and household goods. After noticing that the Chinese grocery store across the street run by George Y. Wah had great success selling food, the Basha family eventually decided they should diversify and include food in their store offerings. Najeeb spent a good deal of time in Sonora rebuilding and running the store there. Though the Basha family ran two stores during that time, it was another 12 years before the Bashas’ name would appear.
By 1932, they had closed the store in Sonora. That same year, Najeeb, who suffered from diabetes, passed away. The family, saddled with medical bills, desperately looked for new sources of income. At first they tried to supplement their income by selling produce grown in their yard, and driving to the reservation to sell dry goods to people who did not have transportation. Soon, a new opportunity presented itself. The managers of a large cotton ranch which had once been run by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company were looking for someone to run a grocery store and post office where their employees could cash in their pay coupons and buy supplies. Two sons, Ike and Eddie, latched onto the opportunity and opened the store. It was an immediate success, and it became the first Bashas’ grocery store.
Bashas’ took off from there. From their store in old Goodyear, now known as Ocotillo, they traded frequently with the Pima Indians, working hard to meet the needs of the people living on the reservation. Their first expansions were in towns like Eloy and San Tan, locations from which they could better serve their Pima customers.
By the mid-1950s, grocery stores were turning to the modern supermarket model, and Bahsas’ was quick to adopt the new format, opening Bashas’ #1 on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Arizona Place in Downtown Chandler in the early 1950s. The brand grew from there, eventually growing to over 160 stores across the state.
Basha’s continues to be headquartered in Chandler. The corporate offices are still located in the original Bashas’ grocery in Ocotillo. Though the Great Recession and a bankruptcy filing forced some consolidation of the company, Bashas’ continues to be a household name in Arizona.