transplants: He missed home—particularly
the food he got there. And so when a small
storefront in Chicago’s Little India neighborhood became available, he sent for his brother.
Together with their families, they established a
store there, which opened in 1974.
That business later spawned a specialty dis-
tributor, Raja Foods, for which Swetal Patel is
the VP of purchasing. The distributor imports
authentic goods for Patel Brothers stores and
also distributes to other U.S. buyers.
When Patel Brothers arrives in a new market, it typically brings with it variety, abundance and prices for Indian goods that simply
weren’t available before they came.
Its shoppers typically assemble meals from
scratch more often than their nonethnic neigh-
bors—a great customer for a store because
they tend to shop a variety of departments.
“The average Indian household spends a lot
of time baking fresh bread every day,” Swetal
Patel says. “We do see an increase from the
freezer space with frozen prepared meals and
things like that, but people still like to cook
But those shoppers are not without the
stresses of the working day driving the convenience megatrend. That’s why stores like
Patel Brothers’ Chandler unit are opening with
or adding Fresh Kitchen or full deli sections,
where prepared foods and store-baked breads
are becoming an attraction. And more attention is being paid to presentation and variety
in areas such as fresh produce, in convenience
packages including frozen foods and in spice
mixes than can take a little labor out of the
from-scratch meal preparation.
“The way it’s evolved for us is: Change
or die,” Swetal Patel says. “We’ve put a big-
The site has a selection of bulk
beans and grains that are hard
to find in areas without a Patel
The Fresh Kitchen department
helps to take some labor out of
the scratch bread baking that
is typical in Indian households.
are coming to
how to sell Indian
food in India.”
—Swetal Patel, Patel Brothers/Raja Foods
Founded by immigrants 45 years
ago, Patel Brothers is still a growing
and diversified family business.