Just more than one decade ago, Naftaly Stramer and Ofer Sivan ditched their engineering roots for a career change.
Now, as the owners of Oasis, 206 N. Linn Street in Iowa City, the two spend their time expanding their business and making hundreds of pounds of hummus per day.
Oasis is a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurant, with menu items like hummus, falafel and babba ganoush.
Before opening Oasis, Stramer was an engineer — he worked in the high-tech computer engineering industry for 23 years in Colorado. But when his wife took a job at the University of Iowa, they moved to Iowa City.
Sivan and his family were the first people Stramer met, as they are both Israeli. Sivan could not find quality falafel, and although he was a UI graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, he wanted to pursue a restaurant that sold falafel, something he felt the city was missing.
“He planted this bug into me, and about one year later, we opened this place,” Stramer said.
Iowa City seemed to be a good place to open the restaurant, he said, because it has a diverse population that was open to new foods.
Stramer and Sivan decided to test their business idea out at the Iowa City Arts and Jazz festivals. They purchased supplies for what they anticipated would last two and a half days. Within the first night of the arts festival, they were sold out and had to run to grocery stores to purchase more food.
The restaurant now sells its hummus outside of the restaurant in grocery stores in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Cedar Falls and the Quad Cities. The two also sell products in smaller stores at the University of Iowa and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Stramer even has plans to expand outside of state lines.
He anticipates that at some point, they will have to expand from their Iowa City location to accommodate their recent growth. They make all of the hummus sold in the stores across the state in the Iowa City location.
And while his prices might be a tad higher, Stramer said, the authenticity of the food sets it apart.
The store is located close the Hamburg Inn and Motely Cow Café, Stramer said, adding the owners of the nearby Iowa City staples were helpful in his early days.
“We beat the odds, and we’ll be here another 10 years,” he said.
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At a glance
•Owners: Naftaly Stramer, Ofer Sivan
•Address: 206 N Linn St, Iowa City
•Phone: (319) 358-7342