“This country has given me a lot. To be able to do what I am doing, especially as a woman, is a blessing. I don’t take any of it for granted.”
– SUFIA HOSSAIN, BANGLADESH | QUEENS
Sufia Hossain is the first to say that starting a business is hard work. What began as a form of self-care became a career in 2015, when she left a corporate job to make Bangladeshi-style hot sauces full time with Silly Chilly Hot Sauce. Before the pandemic, a typical day for Sufia was spent on her feet: setting up and breaking down her pop-up food stands, making deliveries, and packing gift boxes.
Shortly after New York went into COVID-19 lock down, Sufia was forced to move to an online-only model, no longer able to sell at pop up shops and festivals around the country. Sales quickly increased by over 600%, prompting her to dedicating a portion of hot sauce sales to nonprofits in her home country of Bangladesh. She’s also helping to add jobs in the agriculture industry – with sales increasing so quickly, Sufia plans to add additional farms to her production list.
Corner of Orchard and Grand Streets. Photo by Edmund V. Gillon Jr., Tenement Museum collection
Streit’s Matzos Kosher bakery. Photo by Edmund V. Gillon Jr., Tenement Museum collection
Like Silly Chilly Hot Sauce, Streit’s Matzos knew how to adapt to changes in technology while remaining faithful to their culture and traditions. First opened in 1916, Streit’s began by selling handmade matzos on the Lower East Side, then moved to a newer bakery on Rivington Street in 1925, just a few short years before the Depression. For 90 years, they operated and grew there before moving to a more modernized factory in New York and developing a robust online store. Updating with the times allowed this small family business to thrive through the many hardships businesses in the United States experienced for over a century.
Streit’s Matzos factory worker placing sheets of matzo into hanging baskets, 2015. Photo by Joseph O. Holmes, Tenement Museum collection
Streit’s Matzos factory worker, 2015. Photo by Joseph O. Holmes, Tenement Museum collection