Through one job Rajula Gupta got a taste of Salmon Arm and now, through another, he is helping to broaden the community’s taste for the foods of India.
Gupta and spouse Madhu Oza recently opened their new business, Foods of India, at 122 Lakeshore Drive.
“We opened on Sunday (Nov. 12) – on Diwali, said Gupta, explaining Diwali is considered to be a very auspicious day to open any new business.
The couple moved from Burnaby to Salmon Arm about a month ago, though Gupta had been coming to the community for his other job, as a licenced recruiter for foreign workers.
“I have a lot of clients in Salmon Arm who I bring, a lot of hospitality cooks and food service people too,” said Gupta. “So my clients are the ones who 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’s a large Indian community growing in Salmon Arm as well. So I thought this would be perfect.”
The shelves and coolers within the business include a wide range of rice and legumes, sauces, snack foods, pre-packaged meals, teas, as well as a wall of numerous spices.
“This is just the first shipment…,” said Gupta. “Right now the shelves are pretty empty but there’s a lot more coming. The idea is to make it a one-stop shop for all Indian ethnic, ready to eat – spices, desserts, cookies, whatever you fancy.
“Stage 2 is we want to work with Zest (Commercial Food Hub) for ready-to-eat meals as well. So you come in and you feel like a butter chicken today, you can buy a little take out butter chicken and rice meal.”
Gupta said 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 pretty much his whole life.
“And my wife is a really good cook,” said Gupta.
The couple’s shared culinary knowledge is another thing customers can take advantage of when perusing Foods of India looking for the right ingredients. However, Gupta said he’s been finding locals very knowledgeable and appreciative of regional Indian cuisines.
“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 – it’s really wonderful,” said Gupta. “A lot of people actually cook Indian food! A lot of people have even taken courses on how to cook Indian food.
“A steady stream of guests have come in and said we’re so glad you’re open. Now we don’t have to go to Kamloops or Kelowna to hunt for some of the Indian spices or Indian products, so that’s really good.”
That type of interaction has been steady, further supporting the couple’s decision to relocate to Salmon Arm.
“This is what’s missing in big cities like Vancouver and Burnaby – it’s a very community feel,” said Gupta. “People are very supportive. Neighbours come and welcome me to the neighbourhood… It feels very good to be welcome in a new community.”
Foods of India is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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