ger presentation on fresh produce, fresh prepared foods,
snacks and fresh bread.
“When we put in the bakery in the stores, the whole
premise behind was that’s really not a profit center, but
more of a loss leader,” he continues. “You come in, you’re
going to buy your groceries and you’re going to buy fresh
bread. Even if we gave away the bread for free, for example,
you’re still going to buy groceries. You need to eat with it
something. It’s like taco shells—you can give them away,
but guess what? You still need to buy ground beef, you need
to buy lettuce, cheese and tomatoes, and so on.”
More prepared foods and items such as spice mixes and
frozen foods are also incidentally serving to demystify the
store for nonethnic shoppers.
“If you’re Joe Smith wanting to try Indian food from
scratch, there are ready-to-use spice blends that tend to be
[easier],” he says. “I work the store once a month just to get
an ear to the ground and feel the pulse of the consumer,
and whenever we get a nonethnic consumer, they go, ‘Ah,
everything in here is so wonderful, but we’re lost.’ I say,
‘Here, let me hold your hand and I’ll show you what to do.’
You help them out. You pick and choose a few things and
make their life easy.”
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Authentic Tastes, New Format
While the variety of authentic ingredients—from lentils
and beans to chutney and jams, grains, nuts and dried fruits
and spices—bring a bit of India home to its shoppers, the
store format has evolved to a very American way to shop.
Few such “one-stop” locations are a staple of food shopping
in India, Swetal Patel says.
“Mainstream stores are only making their way into India
now,” he says. “But the majority of consumers still buy into
these little 10-by- 10 cutouts in a building where you just
call the guy and he’ll run it to your house. The funny thing
about India is that that’s still the mainstay of how to get to
market: 10-by- 10 cubbies.
“Walmart and stores like that have their presence now,
but they’re not driving the business there. So when [eth-nic shoppers] come here [to Patel Brothers], they are like,
‘Oh wow, it’s amazing.’ It’s a nice store, a way to peacefully
shop, vs. India, where you’d go to one store for this and
another store for that and a third store for something else.
I have friends in modern trade in India who are planning
to spend three days with us to learn what we do, so they
can mimic our stuff over there. They are coming to America
learning how to sell Indian food in India.”