Sabeur Rouin saw one major problem with the state of Arizona when he moved here —– the hummus.
“It was sick –– it needed a doctor,” Rouin said with a smirk on his face.
He’s Doctor Hummus, the man behind the name of the business he started. He mashes locally grown garbanzo beans and adds his “secret ingredients” to create the perfect low-calorie snack.
Rouin said dips made by competitors cannot measure up to the top-notch product that he sells at the Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market on Saturdays.
“The difference is in the quality, and the people who eat it know that what they put in their mouth matters,” Rouin said. “The hard part is trying to explain to a dummy that hummus is a good thing.”
Rouin proceeded to mock the candy and burger junkies who have never even heard the word hummus but added that he knows “the customer is never wrong.”
“It was hard trying to convert people from hamburgers to hummus,” he said with a laugh. “You have to ask people what makes them feel better. If you eat hummus or you eat a hamburger, which will make you feel better the next day?”
Rouin’s confidence shined through the moment he began talking about his products. He prepares the hummus and makes the chips he sells.
“We don’t use any preservatives, and everything is fresh,” Rouin said proudly. “(My company) is different.”
As a native of Africa, Rouin grew up making hummus in his home country of Tunisia. He said that his father taught him about becoming a hard-working man. Both of Rouin’s parents were encouraging when he decided to move to the U.S. in 1993.
“Well, really, they told me to get the hell out,” he added.
After working first on a cruise line, followed by a short career as a chef in Las Vegas, Rouin moved to Phoenix and continued sharing his love of healthy food. Rouin said he wanted to do something to contribute to his new community. In 2004, he started Doctor Hummus using hard work, a positive attitude and a whole lot of confidence.
“There’s no such thing as impossible for me,” Rouin said. “Everything can be done if you want to do it…you just have to work hard and your dreams will come true.”
And that’s just what Rouin did.
When asked how he established the company, Rouin gave an answer as pure and simple as the ingredients used in his hummus.
“I started the business, found people to work for me and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” he said with a shrug.
When Doctor Hummus made its debut at the Open Air Market in downtown Phoenix, Rouin admitted he could have picked a better time to start.
“It rained for three weeks in a row, so we actually didn’t make any money,” Rouin said, laughing. “But I knew there was nothing I could do besides wait.”
Despite the rocky start, Rouin never got discouraged. After picking up speed at local farmers markets in Mesa, Scottsdale and Phoenix, Doctor Hummus began providing its one-of-a-kind food dip to stores and markets all over the state.
At the Open Air Market, Rouin’s stand is regularly surrounded by anxious customers wanting to try new flavors or buy tubs of their favorite dips. Hummus newbies never seem to try just one.
Shyryn Joy, a local farmer and vendor, said she recently became a fan of Rouin’s raw hummus. Although the cost is higher than generic hummus brands, Joy said she doesn’t mind.
“(Rouin’s hummus) is sprouted instead of cooked, and I can’t find that anywhere else,” Joy said. “It’s unique and it’s delicious. … I’m just grateful that someone made it.”
Cindy Gentry, director of the nonprofit that runs the Phoenix Public Market, said she loves Rouin’s humor and easy-going personality.
“He is the funniest man I’ve ever met,” Genry added. “He’s a fun guy who is just doing what he loves, and who makes a product that is tasty and unique. It allows people to get a taste of his homeland.”
Gentry also said Rouin’s work ethic set him apart from other vendors at the local market when his company first started.
“There’s always a time when vendors want to quit,” Gentry said. “(It’s) when they’re at a point where they don’t want to expand, but they need to. But (Rouin) took chances and worked his butt off.”
Rouin said the quality foods and respectable services he provides keep customers coming back for more.
“As long as you do the right thing and are honest, your business will be fine,” Rouin said. “Don’t cheat, provide the right stuff and always let people know what you are doing.”
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