CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Like any good entrepreneur, the Saini family saw a need and decided to fill it. In this case, filling that need was answered with a community neighborhood store.
On Aug. 24 the family held a grand opening for Guru's Supermarket in the Plaza 8 mall off Crescent Road near Exit 8. The small supermarket will fill the needs of the area’s growing Indian community along with anyone else living or working nearby.
The grand opening was hardly an hour old when one family began looking to widen the store’s inventory of Indian staples, treats, fresh produce, and fruit.
“There’s a Chinese restaurant a few doors away and a Mexican restaurant across the parking lot,” said a bemused Amrinder Singh. “We’d better start expanding the stock.”
His wife, Gurbax Kaur, said the family decided to open the supermarket after watching members of the area’s growing Indian community make trips to Exit 5 in Latham or to Central Avenue to stock up on Indian staples and treats.
“There’s not a lot of supermarkets of any kind where we are,” she said. “Everyone from this end of town drives down to Latham to get their groceries. We’ll have fresh produce, organic dairy products from Bunker Hill Dairy, fresh fruit, and frozen ready-to-eat meals.”
Kaur said her father runs a supermarket-deli in Rockland County and was helpful in passing along ideas and tips. The family has been thinking about opening the business for the past five years but couldn’t find a suitable location. Then the tenant who leased the space for several years, moved across the road and the Saini family made the leap.
The opening drew Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett, Chamber of Southern Saratoga County President and CEO Pete Bardunias and Alex Blizinski of Sen. Jim Tedisco’s office.
“For the past few years, we’ve been trying to get people to remember that Exit 8 is the place to go so my mantra has been, don’t hesitate [to] stop at Exit 8. Your store adds another reason for people to stop in here,” Bardunias said.
Barrett welcomed the business to town and wished the family well.
“We want to thank you for your dedication to the town,” Barrett said. “As an entrepreneur, I think you’ll find much success in Clifton Park. I think there’s a market here for what you’re doing and we’re behind you 100 percent. We wish you all the best in the future.”
Blizinski presented the family with a Senate citation welcoming the business to the town and the 49th Senate District.
In his own formal remarks about opening the store Singh discussed how the family came to its decision.
“We liked the location for a while, but as a family, it’s hard to make those decisions to reach this point where we can have some investment to put in and help the community,” he said. “This is the result of effort and dedication, but the passion is really about opening a community neighborhood store. It’s not about selling things. Health is the number one issue. We want to have healthy products here for everyone, but especially for the younger ones and the senior citizens.”
Walking through the fresh produce section Kaur pointed to fruit and vegetables that were very familiar, such as pineapples, bananas, okra, melons, squash, and beets while explaining the more unusual ones to someone with a simple palate.
“These are guava from Mexico,” she said, holding up a single individually wrapped piece of green fruit. “You’re probably familiar with these and then over here are Persian cucumbers; their seeds are very small, Indian squash, tindora; it’s used for curry, Indian eggplants, and karela, a bitter gourd. You can split this, cut out the center and use it for stuffing. It’s very healthful. Good for diabetes.”
A walk through the store’s aisles of packaged products found shelves filled with interesting items that looked quite familiar but had an Indian take to them. Hiren Pathak, a neighbor of the Saini family, gave a reporter insight into the products and how they can be used in meals.
“These packages are all different kinds of beans and lentils,” Pathak said, pointing out several that looked similar. “This one you’ll know, they’re kidney beans, but then there are different varieties. These are red, these are black. It’s like the difference between black beans and pinto beans. Then there are split chickpeas which are called masoor. There’s also black chickpeas which are a little different.”
Pathak said cooks will take the masoor and grind it into a batter, mixing in ground beans and/or spices if they so desire.
“Then you can mix it with rice or even cook it in a pressure cooker with rice and spices and eat it with yogurt; either mixing it or on the side,” he said. “It gives you the protein.”
There were jars of condiments like mango chutney and mango pickles and jars of ginger garlic paste, a staple for curries. Several rows of shelves held brightly colored packages of Indian snacks called Boondi; fried chickpea paste formed in the shape of pearls.
“India has many regions,” Pathak said, “and each region is used to having its own snack. This one is found mostly in western India and this one over here has a little different taste and is found mainly in the Northern part. You can get plain, soy, unsalted, many varieties. Since you have people who migrate from area to area, you would see this [snack] pretty much everywhere in India.”
Finally, Pathak reached for a can of frooti; mango pulp.
“You can drink it straight or use it in your smoothies,” he said. “It’s very good; you can make a lot of sweet treats out of it.”