KENNEWICK -- Opening an Indian grocery store wasn't a priority for Surinderjeet Khosah when she recently relocated with her daughter to the Tri-Cities from Canada.
But she realized the potential of a store once her relatives and friends told her that a number of Tri-Citians with roots in the Indian subcontinent often travel to Seattle or Portland to buy some of their daily staples.
Not all varieties of lentils and spices used by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in their cooking generally are available locally, Khosah said. Also, she was told it was hard to find packaged Indian snack food and savories locally.
So she and brother Kulmeet Singh Sandhu set up Golden Grocers on Clearwater Avenue, between Edison and Kellogg streets, in October.
The response from the community has "been pretty good," said Manjot Khosah, who helps her mom at the store whenever she has time to spare. Besides the essentials, the store sells Indian teas, Maggi noodles with special seasoning, different types of Indian cookies, ready to eat vegetarian meals, chutneys, pickles, and of course, the latest Bollywood DVDs at $2.99 each.
"We have to find out from people what they want," said Manjot, a junior at Southridge High School, while helping her mom re-order things from suppliers last week.
The new 2,000-square-foot store has made Kennewick's Lorraine Choudhry very happy. She said she and her husband used to go to Seattle to buy Indian spices, lentils and snacks, and now she won't have to do it.
"We're kind of relieved there's something in town," said Choudhry, who is married to an Indian.
Everything is reasonably priced, Choudhry said, adding she doesn't mind paying a bit extra for the convenience.
"We used to stock supplies in the summer to avoid going across the mountains in winter," she said.
Khosah, who previously helped run her late husband's trucking business in Canada, said she's trying to match Seattle prices at her store.
"It makes people feel happy," she said. With the growth in business, she'll be able to get bigger discounts from suppliers and pass on the savings to consumers, she said.
Khosah said her daughter has helped develop a customer mailing list and gotten the word out about the store through fliers.
The store also recently gave away complimentary sweets to the Hindu Society of Eastern Washington to help celebrate Diwali, a major Indian festival, said Jinesh Jain, the society's president. That was a great way of introducing the store to the community, he said.
For many, it means no more travel to the west side to buy Indian food, said Jain, who himself has been making a trip every three or four months.
"I think it's a useful addition to the community," he said. Also, the store's location will be a huge draw, he said.
Sandy Gourley of Kennewick visited Golden Grocers after hearing about it from an Indian friend. The range of stuff the store offers is amazing, she said.
The owners are very friendly, said Gourley, who's learning about Indian cuisine. "I try to make curry a couple of times a month," she said.
Gourley said she thinks the store will help her enhance her knowledge of Indian foods.
Khosah said she soon plans to start a small restaurant to sell Indian sweets and fresh snacks including samosa (fried pastries filled with potato and peas) and chana-bhatura (garbanzo beans and fried Indian bread) after she gets her restaurant license. "It'll essentially be a takeout," she said.
Golden Grocers is at 5600 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick. Hours are from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. For more information, call 735-9099.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; email@example.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com