The long-awaited ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Edible Arrangements store at 219-25 North Conduit Ave. in Springfield Gardens finally took place on Aug. 26.
Surrounded by family, friends and elected officials, including Queens Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda and state Senator Leroy Comrie, Ali Baig, the 22-year-old Edible Arrangements store owner, was excited to make it “official” after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the grand opening by eight months.
Even Tariq Farid, founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements International, didn’t miss the chance to attend the ceremony of one of his franchise stores that in only eight months became one of the top 10 performing stores with a revenue of almost $1 million.
Baig invited the company’s top executives to the grand opening and thought, “Hey, why don’t I add Mr. Farid to this email list. He’s a busy guy, [but] if he responds, it would be a pleasure.'”
Within 15 minutes, Baig received a response from Farid.
“I didn’t sleep for like three hours that night,” Baig shared. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the email that he would be coming to my store, because he’s responsible for over 1,000 locations.”
Farid, a longtime advocate for entrepreneurship, said that he “was blown away” when he saw Baig’s invitation.
“Most people either will think, ‘Oh, he’s busy and can’t participate.’ But for me, everything is store because I started out with a single store in East Haven, Connecticut,”
Farid now has has over 1,000 locations worldwide and generates over $600 million in revenue annually.
“I had heard [Ali Baig’s] name and the things he was doing. As soon as it came in, I’m like, ‘Hell, I’ll be there. I can’t wait,'” Farid said.
Baig admitted that he was nervous about opening the store amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Edible Arrangements International saw incredible growth during the crisis.
He also credits his parents with his success.
“My parents have been a great inspiration for me,” Baig said. “They always told me, ‘Put your heart into anything you decide to do. Put your mind into it.’ And that’s something that I thought was really valuable.”
The Atlanta-based company, known for selling fresh-fruit bouquets, added the sale of baked goods, fresh produce and birthday cards to its lineup in 2020. They saw an increase of 45 percent in sales last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The one nice thing about our system is that we’ve always had that concept of celebrating people’s special moments,” Farid explained. “And it’s beautiful to kind of join in on that. There are always special moments. People, even in the most difficult of times, will always celebrate birthdays.”
It is also vital for Ali Baig to give back to the community. He has partnered with the Southeast Queens Chamber of Commerce (SEQCOC) to beautify and revitalize untended public areas of southeast Queens.
One of the projects includes restoring Van Wyck Subway Public Park in Jamaica, designed by Jean-Hans Fulcher of Fulcher Design International.
Rev. Dr. Simone Lord, founder and CEO of SEQCOC, said that Baig was “making a difference.”
“I was very happy to partner up with Ali and his family because they really inspired me. They are helping me to make these unkept areas of southeast Queens beautiful again,” Dr. Lord said.
State Senator Leroy Comrie noted that Edible Arrangements was a minority-owned brand. Referring to Farid, Comrie said that it was “a big deal” when the owner of a national brand attended the ribbon-cutting of one of his franchise stores.
“The world is about change,” Comrie said. “But what is consistent is the ability of people to come together to focus on achieving a goal and to work hard together.”
Queens Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda said that it was great to see so many businesses opening in Queens, which showed the resilience of a community that was the “epicenter of the epicenter” during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re so happy to see our minority-owned businesses thrive,” Binda said.
Farrukh and Bushra Baig, Ali Baig’s parents, who have been helping out at the store, were beaming with pride.
Farrukh Baig, a longtime entrepreneur, said that it is always a parent’s desire to see their son follow in their footsteps.
“Today is a dream come true that [Ali] stood in front of the owner of the company. And he introduced him. That’s like a dream come true,” the senior Baig said. “We are very, very proud of our son.”
Ali Baig’s mother, Bushra Baig, added that they were proud of their son and were proud to be part of the Queens community.
“It’s such a diverse community here in Queens,” Bushra Baid said. “We personally wanted to get involved and let people know it’s like a family because America is a land of opportunity, and this is where it starts.”