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After Revolution, Cinnabon Sweetens Libyan Capital

Aug 2, 2012
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You know, the Chinese leader Mao Zedong once said the revolution is not a dinner party. He is correct. It's more of a snack. In Libya, now that the revolution is over, you can have a Cinnabon.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And the cinnamon rolls are the main dish in our last word in business today.

The sweet smell that flavors the air in food courts and airports across America is now wafting through downtown Tripoli, Libya's capital.

INSKEEP: A couple of entrepreneurial brothers, Arief and Ahmed Swaidek, made a deal to set up a Cinnabon franchise in Tripoli. It is the first U.S. retail brand in the country. They planned to open their shop last year.

MONTAGNE: They built a store, and a ship was coming into port with supplies when the revolution against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi broke out.

MIKE SHATTUCK: The timing was really tough for our franchise partners.

INSKEEP: You don't say. Mike Shattuck runs FOCUS Brands International in Atlanta, which handles overseas expansion for Cinnabon. He says the brothers boarded up their shop, got their families out, and when the fighting was over, they came back to see how much the building had been damaged.

SHATTUCK: It was not, which was amazing. When everything finally came together and Gadhafi was out and things starting the process of returning to normal, I was just really shocked that there was no damage.

MONTAGNE: OK. It's a year and a half late, but this summer, the store opened to crowds and a line of Libyans shelling out several dinars for the sticky, sweet American treat.

And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION, on NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.