From the Nation of Islam to an International Business Franchise
Muslim Journal Newswire
(Published in Muslim Journal, Vol 47, No 1, September 17, 2021)
ATLANTA, Ga. – It is a standard advice in most any profession: If you want to be great, then study/observe/follow “someone” who is great at what you want to do. Many people “talk” business, but today we have the opportunity to study/observe/follow someone who is/has been great at business building – now known as Supreme Foods Worldwide.
Lawrence Shamsid-Deen, founder of Supreme Fish Delight, began his business career in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1967. Encouraged by his brother-in-law, Jesse Williams, and brother in faith, Brother Harvey, Lawrence proceeded to help run community businesses in support of the Nation of Islam.
The Nation of Islam taught principles for discipline – including and most resonating the concept of “Do for Self.” It was there that Bro. Lawrence learned proven business skills at Shabazz Steak House, Shabazz Grocery and the meat market.
These experiences laid the foundation for his entrepreneurial spirit. And stepping out on faith in Allah, the Shamsid-Deen’s saw a unique opportunity and began to slowly realize the dream of becoming a successful restaurateur. Bro. Lawrence opened his first restaurant in Brooklyn and the Fish-n-Chips and a second location, Supreme Burger, which he owned and successfully operated until 1979.
Bro. Lawrence continued to drive taxis until the business grew strong enough to support his family. Then along with his wife, Sis. Edith, they were driven to explore other cities to raise their children, looking for a strong Muslim community, and so Atlanta, Georgia, was chosen.
The Move to Atlanta:
After moving to Atlanta in 1979, Bro. Lawrence embraced the opportunity for his first Atlanta location, “Far East Restaurant” on “sweet” Auburn Avenue. It was purchased from Brothers in the Muslim community, and he changed the name to Supreme Burger and then Supreme Fish Delight. Atlanta was the Mecca for black-owned businesses with a thriving community of entrepreneurial success. Finding their niche, Bro. Lawrence, along with his wife and six children, worked very hard to continue building a legacy based on faith in Allah, great food, cleanliness, and excellent customer service.
In addition to his family, he employed several people from the community and developed a management team that aligned with his vision of “building an empire” that the urban community can be proud to say is black-owned.
Generations of families have worked for the restaurant, some for over 30 years. Representing the Deen of Islam, Lawrence and Edith insisted that all employees and patrons be respected and treated like an extension of family.
From 1980-1985, Bro. Lawrence opened five additional locations including Supreme Corporate Headquarters in Decatur, Ga. He met with the owners of Waffle House restaurant and strategically purchased three locations, converting them to Supreme Fish Delights.
Launching a Bank:
Several impactful situations happened from 1985-1990, during which Bro. Lawrence opened an additional two locations and was approached by several community leaders to open a minority-owned bank. Collectively, they raised $5 million and launched First Southern Bank, which later merged with Citizens Trust Bank to become one of the largest minority-owned banks in America.
Bro. Lawrence was one of the first to join in the vision and serve on the board, assisting in the merger in 2001, lending his small business expertise to the transaction. Along with Sis. Edith and their son, Waleed, also made the holy pilgrimage to Hajj in 1989, exposing his family to international travel and his unwavering faith in Al-Islam.
This was the second time that Bro. Lawrence and Sis. Edith placed all business affairs aside to make the pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca to perform the rights of Hajj.
In 1990, Bro. Lawrence became one of the first black-owned franchisors in the U.S. by developing systems to duplicate his restaurant nationwide. In addition to identifying franchise attorneys and accountants, he started his commissary to provide proprietary items to his franchise system. He founded his own wholesale company to import fresh fish and developed Supreme Fish breader, buffalo wing sauce, tartar sauce, hush puppies and coleslaw recipes. He eventually delivered to multiple restaurants throughout the city of Atlanta.
Between 1990-1995, Lawrence opened three additional locations in Atlanta, several of which were franchised. He successfully trained members of many ethnicities – including Ethiopians, Sundanese, Koreans, Chinese and of course African Americans – to operate a successful Supreme Fish Delight franchise.
The Supreme Chicken was also added to the restaurant portfolio with two locations in Atlanta. Bro. Lawrence was honored by the Black Clergy of Atlanta as the Father of the Year and at that time having over 100 employees working for the company. With a tremendous retention rate and a company value built on the slogan, “Thank you for being a part of our family,” Supreme employed thousands of employees over the years.
In 1994, Supreme Fish Delight was featured in Imam W. D. Mohammed’s book, Islam’s Climate for Business Success. Imam Mohammed often frequented Supreme Fish Delight when in town and provided Lawrence with wisdom and encouragement.
Over the years, several masajid, community organizations, city and county governments have acknowledged Bro. Shamsid-Deen as a pillar in the community, stating that he was a shining light of Muslim Business Success and an inspiration for others to become entrepreneurs.
He and his businesses were honored by Muslim Journal’s A Time To Be Grateful Awards Dinner in 1915 in Philadelphia, Penn., along with other national Muslim businesses.
The Olympics and Ensuing Trends:
Bro. Lawrence was awarded the food service contract at the Olympic Stadium during the 1996 Olympics, which allowed him to employ over 250 youth and operate 25 locations inside the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies, track and field events and Paralympics.
By this time, Supreme Fish Delight had over 10 franchise locations and 10 corporate-run locations. He, along with his family provided the labor force and management for this opportunity. After the Olympics, Lawrence donated over $25,000 in support of WDM Mohammed Schools and the Atlanta Masjid Community, also sponsoring Eid Celebrations for over 40 years and supporting local Imams and other communities around the U.S.A.
Moreover, Supreme has continuously supported nonprofits and community organizations, colleges, and universities, and has a standard scholarship at Mohammed Schools in the name of “Lawrence and Edith Shamsid-Deen” – founded by their children and grandchildren.
Supreme is also known for being one of the first to bring buffalo wings to Atlanta. And since the early 1980s, Supreme Fish Delight had started several food trends, including being one of the first restaurants that did not allow smoking or drinking alcohol (prior to smoking being ban).
It also was one of the first to offer southern fried fish, fish sandwiches on wheat bread, fish salad, the famous peach punch and frying food in healthy oils – including vegetable oil, canola oil and oil with no trans-fat.
Strategic Partnerships and the Recession:
In 2005, Supreme Fish Delight had the opportunity to partner with then NBA Superstar Shareef Abdur-Rahim and opened five locations throughout metro Atlanta. Through this partnership, Supreme grew to 25 locations in the city and experienced unparallel growth with expanded franchise opportunities.
During the 2008 recession, Supreme Fish Delight had to strategically downsize, liquidate and close multiple locations. Over the course of five years, the company went through a difficult re-organization, led by Lawrence’s son, Waleed Shamsid-Deen.
Despite the challenges that put multiple small businesses out of business, Supreme Fish Delight was able to weather the storm and create a new brand. In 2015, Waleed Shamsid-Deen launched Supreme Foods Worldwide.
In honor of his father, Waleed created a “throwback” concept titled Supreme Burger to pay homage to the first location and the history of Supreme. The Supreme Burger “Test Kitchen” was opened in Conley, Ga.
There Waleed and his wife, Dr. Quiana, developed a gourmet burger concept that featured a burger for everyone, developing a shrimp, vegan, veggie, turkey, beef, lamb, salmon and the original Supreme Burger.
In 2018, Waleed and the new #TeamSupreme converted the corporate office location to a Supreme Burger and shortly thereafter won the bid to become the official burger for the 2019 Super Bowl Tailgating experience. They provided over 5,000 burgers on Super Bowl Sunday in Atlanta.
Then Came “Covid-19”:
Last year, COVID presented a unique environment for small businesses. Unfortunately, those in the restaurant quick-service industry were tremendously impacted and forced to look at new ways to survive as small and minority-owned businesses.
Supreme Foods Worldwide used this opportunity to pivot and explore other ways to provide community services aside from its retail restaurant. Supreme Foods Worldwide expanded its Foundation’s Mission to include Food Security, closing the racial wealth gap through entrepreneurship and cultural exchange.
One of the goals was to provide funding for small minority-owned businesses and cultural exposure for minority and inner-city youth. Supreme has been instrumental in winning over $1 million in grants and government contracts to provide emergency food for those most in need: seniors and youth.
Additionally, Supreme launched an emergency food site to serve food for over 500 children daily, partnered with Frontline Foods to provide meals to frontline workers in hospitals and launched the first Halal Meal Program for Muslim Seniors in Metro Atlanta, in partnership with the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam.
Supreme Foods Worldwide proudly professes its three generations of Shamsid-Deen’s working in the restaurant. Four of Lawrence’s children have owned and operated Supreme Fish Delight franchise locations and supported the wholesale and franchise company.
Through sacrifices, hard work and commitment, the children and grandchildren have opportunities to work in the business.
Under the leadership of Waleed Shamsid-Deen, Supreme has continued to grow and expand and is currently opening locations in Conyers, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and most recently opened the first of six locations in Playa del Carmen, Mexico – just 45 minutes from Cancun on the Caribbean side of Quintana Roo.
Moreover, Supreme has launched a Reg CF (Crowd Funding campaign) with the intent to raise $5 million for the growth and expansion of both brands nationwide.
Supreme Fish Delight and the family are now celebrating 41 years in business in Atlanta and offer a thank you message to the Muslim community for the continued support they’ve received over the years.
“We look forward to the next generation continuing the legacy of Supreme Fish Delight. Above all Lawrence would like to thank Allah for his continued blessings and his wife for her unwavering support.” Anyone interested in Franchising can visit www.SupremeFoodsWorldwide.com. And for those interested in investing, please visit www.InvestinSupreme.com.