The story of the Al Bohsali family business started 200 years ago in a small shop in Beirut, Lebanon. From its very beginnings the Al Bohsali brand has received international recognition due to its traditional methods in preparing Mediterranean sweets of the highest quality. Many decades and family generations later, the Al Bohsali business is at the forefront of its industry, still following one family’s vision.
Saadeddine Bohsali & Sons
This family business history starts in the late 1800’s with a young man named Salim Bohsali, who emigrated with his family from Damascus to Beirut. His son Saadeddine worked in a sweets’ shop, where he began to show a keen interest in learning the art of Mediterranean sweet. After some years Saadeddine became a patissier and decided to start his own business. He chose the Union Square in Downtown Beirut -later known as Martyr’s Square- to open his retail space under the name of “Saadeddine Bohsali & Sons”.
Saadeddine was a true entrepreneur and a cultivated man who led his business to success through his determination and hard work. He extended the range of products to over thirty different kinds of sweets, and excelled at preparing recipes by adhering to the traditional methods of patisserie. As a result, the business gained a wide reputation for the quality of its pastries and deserts such as Baklava, Mamoul, and Knafeh. The good name of Saadeddine’s sweets along with the prime location of the factory and retail outlet in Downtown Beirut, helped in attracting sweets’ enthusiasts from remote cities and towns all over Lebanon. Saadeddine’s reputation extended so far that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s he catered to the Ottoman Emperor in Istanbul on several occasions.
In 1926, and after building a reputation as one of the finest Mediterranean sweets manufacturers in the world, Saadeddine Bohsali passed away leaving the business in the hands of his four sons, Salim, Rafik, Mounir, and Shafik. Each of the four brothers, endowed with different skills, continued in their father’s footsteps for a long time.
In 1966, the four brothers went their separate ways and decided to challenge themselves in different businesses. Mounir Bohsali, assisted by his son Youssef, established a sweets outlet and factory under the name “Al Bohsali” in the Riad El Solh Square in Downtown Beirut, which was, at the time, the new commercial and banking center of Beirut. Mounir’s commitment to his father’s legacy was the reason behind his distinction in producing the traditional sweets.
In 1973, after the passing of Mounir Bohsali, his son Youssef took over the family business. It was not long before he was joined by his youngest brother Amer. They both had a vision to develop the family business further: They transformed the distribution and sales part of the business into franchises across Lebanon while keeping all production under their own control at the Riad El Solh factory in order to preserve the high standards of quality the family had set over decades. This led to the establishment of over 17 Al Bohsali outlets in Lebanon. The two brothers then expanded the brand into various Arab countries by establishing part-ownership franchises in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
During the Civil War in Lebanon, the family business underwent a dark time. The devastating effect on Lebanon’s economy led to the closure of all Al Bohsali franchises in the country except for the company-run factory and outlet in Beirut.
Amer Bohsali took over the family company after his brother Youssef passed away in 2007. He was teamed up with Youssef’s two sons, Mounir and Amro Bohsali and the three proceeded to running the company together. They operated from the same outlet and factory that had been established by their family in 1966 in Riad El Solh Square.
The Fourth Generation
The new generation of the Bohsali family brought in some innovative ideas. In 2010, due to the increasing popularity and convenience of online shopping, Al Bohsali expanded the business to include a full e-commerce and export operating system. The project took over a year of preparation; the family developed a website, photography, packaging designs, and many other logistical details.
In addition to catering to its Lebanese customers including restaurants and hotels, the Al Bohsali family business, 200 years after its small beginnings, now sweetens people’s lives across North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and South America.
Family Business Thoughts: Amro Al Bohsali – Partner in Operations, Al Bohsali Sweets
Running a family business is one of the most enjoyable and exciting things one can do; yet, it is a very tricky thing. The family is the backbone of the business and ‘Family is always family’, members have trust in each other and are dedicated and passionate about the family tradition. This is a great advantage for the business, as involved members work tirelessly and passionately to prosper their business. However, ‘business is business’ and any business needs to be run professionally in order to be successful. Taking these elements into consideration, the three main key ingredients in running a successful family business are dedication, good organisation of operations, and commitment of members to the continuity of the business.
Dedication is very important as involved members are mainly counted on to run the business. Good organisation of operations are essential so members divide the responsibilities among themselves in a structured way in order to work efficiently. Last, the commitment that each member makes to the business and to preserving the tradition of the family is most important to ensure continuation and prosperity of the business. The combination of these ingredients with the many advantages of family members working together creates a very exciting and very efficient work environment leading to success and prosperity.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 12, 2011