One man’s story with a business tailored for success.
There are household names that play an integral part in Sharqiya’s history. These very names became synonymous with the development of cities within our province, making them the very stepping stones to the present we live in. One of which is the Zamil family.
The year is 1964, the city is Khobar; skies were bluer, life was simpler, and Faisal Al Zamil, current founder and CEO of Al Zamil Stores was a young boy, setting the foundations of a business that has captivated hearts of thousands for decades.
Al Zamil Stores has been in business for over 50 years, making it a rightful landmark in the city of Khobar. I remember visiting the store as a young girl, and continuing to visit it as an adult, whether or not I needed something. It had a gravitational pull that is almost unparalleled.
But what makes it this special? It is, first and foremost, merely a crafts store. But under the roof of the multi-floored structure, what you get from Al Zamil Stores is more than art supplies, stationery, and fabric.
More often than not, one leaves inspired to create, to do, to pick up a craft, or go back to one forgotten. Especially if you were lucky enough to catch a conversation with the founder himself–who can be often found assisting a wandering new customer or engaged in banter with a regular.
We were one of the extra lucky ones and got to have a one-on-one sit down with the man behind the Khobar’s favorite store.
In order to delve into the history of Al Zamil Stores, Al Zamil took us back to the early ‘60s, when his mother, a seamstress in a time where there weren’t many in business, made a living sewing dresses for the women of Khobar. Hindered by the limited supplies in the area, her business stagnated.
A few years later, his older brother, Abdulaziz, visited Beirut–where he stumbled upon troves of sewing supplies, the very ones their mother would need to move her business forward. Which is what happened after purchasing significant qualities of supplies.
Interestingly so, a new business opportunity arose; from the remnants of supplies used after tailoring all those gowns, the young Zamil men found themselves with enough to resell in a market devoid of competition. It was then that Al Zamil Stores was born.
The business rapidly grew, expanding its product line and service offerings along the years. With very humble beginnings operating out of a small rented showroom, Al Zamil Stores currently fills up 3,000 square meter of space.
Al Zamil attributes the store’s success to hard work, determination, and his love for what he does. From the very start, he was and until recently, the store’s buyer. Anyone who has ever been to the store will marvel at the eclectic range of products that line the shelves.
“I’m an artist”, he tells us, “I know how to knit. I know how to crochet. I don’t think of myself as only a buyer. I am an artist with a deep love for art and all art forms. When I buy, I don’t only buy what I know is good but also what would help the people of Khobar discover their passion, their craft.”
This explains how the business expanded to include art supplies and materials. “I began to learn more about art every time I travel. I started subscribing to art magazines and catalogs. There was no Internet back then; everything happened the hard way but it was worth it.”
Now, Al Zamil Stores is one of the largest arts and crafts specialty stores in the country, carrying world renowned brands such as Canson, Dylon and DMC – to name a few. The store is also one of the leading giants in stationery supplies, distributing to dozens of schools in the area.
Another attribute to the store’s success is the personal relationships cultivated along the years with the customer. “Know your customers”, Al Zamil tells us. When you know your customer, when you get to understand your customer, you will gain their loyalty. “Even the customers who have left the country still write to us. We get letters and emails regularly. Loyalty like that is priceless.”
There is a lot to learn when taking in the story of Al Zamil Stores. It’s not an easy business. It’s not a business anyone can start. It is definitely not a business anyone can sustain. But the Zamil brothers have what it takes: passion, drive, and heart. “It’s a family business. It’s a love business.”
“What advice can you give me and our readers?”, I asked.
“Do what you love. Nothing pays off like doing what you love.”
And Al Zamil Stores is proof of that.
Location: 3rd Street, Al Khobar Al Shamalia, Al Khobar 34429