One job gave Rajula Gupta a taste for Salmon Arm, and now, through another, he’s helping expand the community’s taste for the food of India.
Gupta and his wife Madhu Oza recently opened their new store, Foods of India, at 122 Lakeshore Drive.
“We opened on Sunday (November 12) – Diwali,” said Gupta, explaining that Diwali is a very auspicious day to open a new store.
The couple moved to Salmon Arm from Burnaby about a month ago, although Gupta had come to the community for his other job, as a licensed foreign worker recruiter.
“I have a lot of clients in Salmon Arm that I bring with me, a lot of hotel chefs and food service people too,” Gupta said. “So my customers brought me here and I fell in love with the place. And I noticed that there is no Indian grocery store here and the locals love Indian food and there is a big Indian community growing in Salmon Arm too. So I thought this would be perfect.”
On the company’s shelves and refrigerators you will find a wide selection of rice and legumes, sauces, snacks, ready meals, teas, as well as a wall of numerous spices.
“This is just the first delivery…” Gupta said. “The shelves are pretty empty at the moment, but there’s a lot more to come. The idea is to make it a one-stop shop for all ready-to-eat Indians – spices, desserts, cookies, whatever you want.
“Stage 2 is that we also want to work with Zest (Commercial Food Hub) on ready meals. So if you come in and feel like a butter chicken today, you can buy a small butter chicken and rice meal to take home.”
Gupta said that he and Madhu would prepare the meals and that in addition to being a qualified tea taster, he has run restaurants in Vancouver and has been in the food business most of his life.
“And my wife is a really good cook,” Gupta said.
The couple’s shared culinary knowledge is another advantage customers can take advantage of when looking for the right ingredients at Foods of India. However, Gupta said he has found that locals know and appreciate regional Indian cuisine very well.
“Since I opened my doors, 90 per cent of my customers are local Canadians and they have a great knowledge of Indian spices and Indian foods – that’s really wonderful,” said Gupta. “A lot of people actually cook Indian food! Many people have even taken classes on cooking Indian dishes.
“A steady stream of guests came in and said we’re so glad you’re open. Now we don’t have to drive to Kamloops or Kelowna to look for Indian spices or Indian products, which is really good.”
This type of interaction was stable and supported the couple’s decision to move to Salmon Arm.
“That’s what’s missing in big cities like Vancouver and Burnaby – it’s a very community feel,” Gupta said. “People are very supportive. Neighbors come and welcome me to the neighborhood…It feels very good to be welcomed into a new community.”
Foods of India is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m
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