Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add details about a GoFundMe campaign launched Tuesday evening.
On Friday, Eat Zawadi – Durango’s only restaurant serving African cuisine – abruptly closed.
The restaurant opened in May 2020, quickly expanding from the Smiley Café to a location on East Eighth Avenue and a food truck at 11th Street Station.
Chef Arnold Safari Ngumbao said the closure was the result of an amicable, but sudden, split between him and his business partner, Grant Andrew, owner of the Smiley Café.
“A few things didn’t work out with my partner,” Safari said in a phone interview. “He wanted to do something else. Since he was the main guy on the side of cash, and I was the main guy on the side of experience and cuisine, in good faith, we separated.”
Eat Zawadi – or at least the spirit behind it – might not be gone for good. Safari is seeking crowdfunding for a new food truck, Eat Zawadi’s successor, through a GoFundMe set up by Tony Foltman and Terese Lyons. They are seeking to raise $50,000.
“I want to put out a GoFundMe ... so that can I bring back what the community deserves,” he said. “So many people are calling me at home and driving here to ask me what happened and what are the next steps. ... What I want to do is to continue doing it, but I don’t have funds.”
Safari said he bears no ill will toward Andrew and is not dwelling on the past.
“My main focus right now is just to forget what took place and move forward ... giving service and good food to the community, which they deserve,” he said. “The way they have supported me, I never thought it would come to an end. I just want to bring it back, whatever I can.”