Charbel Makhlouf Is Revolutionizing Food Retail at Maison M

When I first beheld Charbel Makhlouf inside the epicerie of Maison M in Naccache, I was caught off guard. A carefully groomed hipster beard and long hair pulled back into a man bun would have you believe he were a rock star. The Batman Joker printed Tee he donned only complemented the profile.


Charbel Makhlouf helps run his family business Maison M


Never in a million years would I have guessed Charbel is in fact a passionate food retailer.

Never in another million years would I have guessed he is only 23!

You wouldn’t either if you knew he has an MSc from the Cranfield School of Management in England and created a theory about retail atmospherics. In fact, at age 19, Charbel graduated from Notre Dame University – Louaize and continued his graduate education at the London School of Economics. Taking on cumbersome course loads, he was earnest to get back to Lebanon and help run the family business, which was established in 1948 in Dora.

What started as a humble mini market in the years following WWII slowly and steadily grew, earning the trust of the neighborhood for its honest and hard-working operation. The war set it back considerably, but Charbel’s father and namesake uncle invested a labor of love to keep it alive and thriving.

And thrive it has, boasting two locations, 250 employees, a full-service Lebanese restaurant, a sushi lounge, and an ISO-certified gourmet market. Maison M, which may as well stand for “meticulous,” is all about painstaking detail, and you feel it as soon as you enter the Naccache stronghold.

Two temperature-controlled wine cellars. The most comprehensive whisky selection I’ve ever laid eyes on in Lebanon with prices that rival the airport’s. Store-brand products sourced from the Makhlouf hometown of Bekaa Kafra above Becharre. Spinach “ftayer” pockets formed from the family recipe of whole-wheat dough. Beautifully manicured fresh produce. A French patisserie with made-to-order specialty cakes.

You’ll absolutely love pushing your cart through the immaculate aisles, all while making small talk with the smiling staff. Take in the spick-and-span counters, and leisurely browse the imported goods Maison M stocks up on. Truth be told, Charbel’s doctoral studies emphasized visual merchandising, and he’s innovatively applying that science to the art of grocery retail.


Retail window art not only applies to clothing but food as well


But Charbel, who wakes up every morning at 4:30, is far from being a behind-the-desk executive. He helps open the Dora outlet at 6:30, alongside his grandfather, and then spends five hours hand-selecting produce for both stores. 

Charbel assists the butcher in carving meat; tastes the kitchen’s cuisine, rendering recommendations thereof; and mingles with customers before devoting the remainder of his evening to the general marketing of the business. You can say he's mature beyond his years, but his motto is “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”


Charbel speaks ardently about his passion for food retail


We had the opportunity to dine at the Lebanese restaurant, perched directly above the epicerie on the first floor. A spacious venue that lends itself to large social gatherings, Maison M features live oud music every Friday night, and the dance floor really draws out a crowd!


Maison M is suited for large social gatherings


The mezza is fantastic, from a perfectly crisp fattouch to a lemony tabbouleh. The hummus sampler has a pesto-inspired number for basil lovers, and the “ma3jou2a” is reminiscent of the Armenian salad itch with sweet and spicy notes lent by balsamic reduction. Try the “batata 7arra”, which perhaps kissed the frying oil but hardly absorbed it. 


Hummus in the foreground, "ma3jou2a" in the background

Grape leaves stuffed with goat labneh

"Makanek" sausages

"Soujouk" in the foreground, "batata 7arra" in the background

Grilled potato slices with a dip of yogurt and sumac tinted with beetroot


Make sure you leave room for the ultimate showstopper, and that’s the grilled meat. Tender, succulent, seasoned veal that puts butter to shame, it easily yields to the flourish of your knife. 

Cleanse your palate afterward with the freshest selection of the season’s fruits and a variety of Lebanese cupped custards.


Fresh fruit of the season

Rice pudding and "meghleh"


Leaving Maison M, I couldn’t help but reflect on Charbel’s sage outlook, of life, labor and love inextricably bound as one. Pour them into your dreams, and watch success flow effortlessly from passion.

That’s the story of Maison M. And how fortunate we are to learn from it.



Maison M
Naccache
+961 4 444 260
+961 4 444 920

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