The restaurant, which originally opened in 2006, is now under the guidance of East African women’s activist and community leaders, Shegitu Kebede and Frewoini Haile.
“Fre and I are very excited about entering the restaurant business,” said Kebede. “It’s truly our passion...we love serving people. We also need to become self-sufficient so that we can make a difference in our lives as well as the lives of others, especially East African women. Running a successful business can get us to this goal.”
The new owners are setting out to provide their guests with a great East African dining experience. “All of our traditional dishes are based on family recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation,” said Kebede. “It’s through our recipes that we create a family atmosphere where people can feel at home.”
Both Kebede and Haile have built their careers on advocating for women and East African communities in Minnesota. Kebede, a McKnight Foundation’s Virginia McKnight Award in Human Service recipient, began her career as a community activist with St. Paul-based CommonBond Communities where regularly she met suffering immigrant women who lacked sufficient training to find successful job placement. In their shared experiences, she found her call to action. In 2003, she founded Going Home, Inc.—a program that provides cleaning jobs for immigrant mothers and other new immigrants.
Haile arrived in the United States from Eritrea in 1986. She also works for Ethiopians in Minnesota Inc., providing Amharic and Tigerna translations and document interpretation services for newly arrived East African immigrants. “After we get them a bit acclimated to life in the Twin Cities, we also seek out employment for these individuals as well as provide basic personal skills training,” she explained.
Haile has over 15 years in the hospitality and restaurant industry and has a BA in Hospitality Sales and Business Management. “We want to educate the public as to the healthiness of East African food. It’s freshly prepared, tasty and very good for you. Also, our meat entrees feature Halal meat from area butchers which supports the local economy,” she said.
Being engaged with the St. Paul East African community is another objective of the owners. “Our goal is to connect our restaurant with our community to make an impact on their lives. Our story can speak to other East African women about the opportunities that exist within this county, despite the barriers we often faced,” said Kebede.
Flamingo Restaurant is located at 490 Syndicate Street North (Syndicate at University). The restaurant is open Monday - Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 9 pm. For more information and directions, interested parties can call (651) 917-9332.