“One of the characteristics of the South Asian community is hospitality. We want to create that in our grocery store and deli,” says Muddla Visweswara Rao, one of three female owners of Woodbury’s Fresh India Food Store.
The Singh family, Hapreet Kaur and Gurdeep Singh; the Jayanti family, Sarada A Jayanti and Kameswar R Jayanti; and the Rao family, Swarajya Lakshmi T. Pabolu-Maddula and Muddla Visweswara Rao, had dreamt of opening a full-service grocery store for quite some time. One of the visions for this 100 percent women and minority-owned business is treating their customers as more than guests.
Pabolu-Maddula says they noticed the city did not have a large Indian community. But after going to Woodbury for so many years, they noticed the growing community and necessity for people who need Indian vegetables and groceries.
“In the east metro, there isn’t a full-service South Asian grocery store or deli that represents the richness of the Indian cuisine,” Pabolu- Maddula says. So, they decided to fill in the missing piece. “That is our dream, you know we have all wanted to provide this service.”
However, finding a store location took some time; they looked at properties for nearly two years. Singh noted that the county was selling space, located near Woodbury’s Target East and Sam’s Club.
“When we went to look at the space, the first thing we noticed was that there were several vacant spots around,” Singh says. “We felt maybe we could bring [the space] back into good use, that way the city can get revenue.”
The project helped the community by turning a tax-forfeited land into a revenue-generating asset for the city and created jobs through construction during the pandemic. The group also worked with local partners including Sirish Samba, CEO of Sambatek, Crawford Merz and the North American Banking Company. The owners also intend to employ four to eight people to help run its grocery and deli business, as well as plans to embrace sustainable and eco-friendly practices in all of its operations, including construction.
“Even in our construction, we are trying to do an eco-friendly business with LED lighting and sustainable practices,” Singh says.
Through hard planning and work, Woodbury has gained a full-service ethnic grocery store focused on providing fresh and healthy South Asian groceries for the community and the surrounding cities. This healthy vegetarian food and grocery store will carry popular grains such as rice, wheat and smaller grains like millet. There will also be a variety of lentils, spices, packaged snacks and fresh, organic vegetables and produce. Though there will be no fish or meat products sold in the store, there will be ready-to-eat meals and frozen foods.
The deli will carry dishes drawn from a large menu that is customizable based on the season and day of the week. Periodically, the deli will highlight dishes and recipes that are focused on cuisine from a region/state of India.
Additionally, specialty items like Tandoori Pizzas (naan-based), rotis, naans and kulchas will be prepared fresh daily, as well as flavorful snacks like samosa and boxed brunches for the weekend. The owners are excited to “introduce more flavors from India to the general population in Woodbury,” Singh says.
Furthermore, each owner emphasized their willingness to give back to the community of Woodbury. Not only will the grocer provide the community with unique, flavorful vegetarian cuisine, but they strive to give back by volunteering, sponsoring local events and donating food. “As we establish ourselves, we’re more than happy to contribute back to Woodbury whether by food, money or service … anything to give back to the community,” Singh says.
There are many senior citizens in the Woodbury community who may not have the means to get groceries and Pabolu-Maddula says they are thinking of having a day dedicated to senior citizens where groceries will be delivered at no-cost.
“It’s our desire and a way of giving back to our community … making the community part of our home,” Pabolu-Maddula says. They also plan to conduct periodic cooking classes to introduce the cuisines and recipes, where all the required ingredients and spices are available in store.
Fresh India Food Store’s soft opening happened a few weeks ago in March*, while construction was being completed. The grocer’s grand opening is set for April 13 or 14** to coincide with Vaisakhi, also pronounced as Baisakhi (since some people call the festival Baisakhi), that marks the beginning of solar Hindu New year or Ugadi, the New Year’s Day for the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka in India.
*The soft opening of Fresh India Food Store is delayed and will be happening in April 2021.
**The grand opening is tentatively set for April 17, 2021.