Berhane Amanuel came to America from Ethiopia in 1987 and settled in Seattle. A few years after that he met and later married Megan Eyre, and together they began offering East African Products for sale on eBay in 1999. After receiving more sales than they initially anticipated they decided they should try their luck with a brick and mortar location and in 2002 they opened their first retail location in Seattle, WA. They believed they could bring exceptional quality foods, spices, and products from Ethiopia to the United States. Their retail business has expanded and also includes a restaurant. The wholesale business has also expanded to more than 40 US States. All spice products are purchased directly from Ethiopia. The spices are dried, ground, mixed and packaged in Ethiopia. Berhane’s mother Wahid runs the operations in Ethiopia making her special blend of spices while maintaining a superior level of quality control. Over the past 20 years the reputation of East African Imports has grown and expanded, supplying outstanding products including special spice mixes, coffee, tea, teff, grains, baskets, clothing and more keeps customers coming back because of consistent quality and fast, friendly customer service.
The owner of East African Imports, Berhane Amanuel has a very interesting life story. He grew up in the capital city of Ethiopia called Addis Ababa. While growing up he would play soccer, basketball, volleyball, ping pong etc. In fact, he was so gifted in sports that he made the National Basketball Team of Ethiopia. Although he was not always the tallest on the court he had a rather good jump shot that was not easily blocked by defenders due to him jumping up high before releasing his shot. His basketball team traveled to China to compete in an international basketball tournament. That was his first time leaving the country and he enjoyed China very much. In fact, the very next year he made the National Volleyball Team of Ethiopia where he would again travel to China to compete in international tournaments.
It seemed that all was going well and then all of a sudden, a civil war broke out in Ethiopia. Ethiopia then became a very unsafe place to live. The government known as DERG was ruling with an iron fist. In fact, they started to commit genocide and some estimates claim between 200,000 - 1,000,000 innocent civilians lost their lives. It was at this point that rebel groups had begun to fight back against DERG. Seeing so many dead bodies on the street and losing friends and family to the violence of the government Berhane choose to protest against the injustice that he was experiencing every day in Ethiopia.
He joined a political group called EPRP (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party) also known as IHAPA. There he began simple protests in the town square and the government would respond by using live ammunition. Many of his friends were killed during these confrontations and with bullets flying past him hitting his comrades it’s almost unbelievable that he made it out alive with so much as a scratch. Noticing that the government wasn’t going to change their ways he decided to join the military division of EPRP known as EPRA (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Army). It was at this point that Berhane became a full fledged guerrilla fighter and the blood on both sides would finally begin to shed. With wars breaking out all across the country the government could no longer withstand the attacks from all sides and the leader of DERG Mengistu Hailemariam fled for his life to Zimbabwe where he to this day has been protected by Robert Mugabe. The mastermind behind DERG has still not paid for his destruction that he caused almost 30 years ago known as the "Ethiopian Red Terror".
After the Ethiopian government collapsed he remained there for a few years and became a taxi driver. Seeing that the local economy wasn't promising he decided it was time to leave the country. So he then moved to Sudan where he began working at a US Embassy where he would serve alcohol to the foreign diplomats. There would sometimes be unopened bottles of alcohol leftover from the party the night before which he would then take and distribute to the local Sudanese community.
After living in Sudan for 2 1/2 years he decided it was time to move again and had a similar job offer in Saudi Arabia and almost moved there however his cousin Tesfai whom is more like a brother as they grew up together in the same house, had convinced him to move to the US where he had already been living for a few years. So Berhane then moved to New Jersey for a few years then later moved to Seattle where he then convinced Tesfai to join him. It was there that Berhane continued his taxi driving career until about a decade later when he then became a Metro-Bus Driver. A few years after that is when he decided to open up a retail location serving his Diaspora Community with the hopes of offering the best quality products for the best price. Because of this many people know, respect, and appreciate all that he has done and he is always trying to help people around him.
Because of everything that he has experienced and witnessed in his life Berhane has chosen to live a life free from politics and leads a peaceful life where he was able to raise a family and create a successful business.
Lately he has given permission for his son to expand and take over the wholesale department of East African Imports. With his help he has been able to reach out to various suppliers and renegotiate deals that have been on hold for the last decade. With the new cooperation from both old and new suppliers it appears as though East African Imports will finally reach its full potential in the near future. East African Imports will continue to be known as one of the largest organizations on both National and International levels.
For the last 20 years we have continued to supply stores and restaurants with our products. Our customer demographics are very diverse. You can find our products in almost every state at East African Grocery Stores, Middle Eastern Markets, International Markets, Health Food Stores, Asian Markets, and traditional American Grocery Stores.
East African Imports has business ties in the US, Ethiopia, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Canada, Slovakia and the list of countries continue to grow every few years.