Joanna Andraos is not the only company for which the multiple crises in Lebanon, the Beirut Blast included, acted as a catalyst to accelerate development, whether through enhancing its international exposure, realigning or diversifying its activities. Fouad Zarzour, owner of the Phibraco factory in Zalka (on the coast, north of Beirut) and the store franchise Zed, which sells clothes and other garments, decided at the beginning of the economic crisis to expand his store network.
When the blast occurred, the factory sustained minor damage but the main shop, located in Beirut’s Achrafieh district, was completely ravaged. “I had two employees on shift that day. One of them contacted me via video call and I could see he was bleeding. I asked both of them to leave work to treat themselves and check on their families. Then I gathered employees from the factory and went straight to the shop to clean as much of the mess and store what could be saved in the warehouse. At 2:30 AM, the job was done”, recounts Zarzour. “It was a heavy night”, he adds.
Despite the challenges, he says that his company, founded by his family in 1991, was able to get the best out of the crisis and could manage the damage done by the blast. “We saw at the beginning of the economic crisis an opportunity to fill the gap left by some foreign brands that decided to limit or suspend their presence in the country, our fashion department manufactures products of quality and our prices were in line with the downgrade of the purchasing power of our targeted customers, but we keep the quality up. The blast didn’t affect our plan much, but we still had to reorient the manufacturing process of our products, due to the decline of the number of designers that used to manufacture their pieces in our factory”, he noted.
Like many members of his industry, Zarzour didn’t open the doors of his shop on August 4th. He hopes that one day justice will be done, so that the story of the Beirut Blast can finally have an ending.