There's nothing so good for the heart and soul as home-cooked food (a.k.a Ghar ka Kaana in Hindi).
Food made at home with the secret ingredient — a pinch of love — is what satisfies your soul. But for many immigrants here, a typical grocery store run just doesn’t cut it when making these special meals. And many ethnic grocers have sprung up in neighbourhoods to help offer immigrants a nostalgic taste of home.
Among them, on the corner of Sixth street and 15th Avenue, is a new Indian grocer that has just opened its doors to the community, focusing on products that are hard to find in other grocery stores.
Shree Supermarket is located on the same stretch where other Indian grocers like Sabzi Mandi and Sun Farm do business, but this new store on the block is hoping to stand out for focusing mainly on western Indian and southern Indian groceries — along with Latino products in the mix.
The supermarket is the brainchild of Manasi Mehta and Jatin Mehta, who arrived in Canada on a startup visa in August 2022.
West Coast to West Coast
The Mehtas immigrated to British Columbia along with their daughters, Sachi and Bhavi, from Western India.
The Gujarati and Marathi couple initially started a store in Vancouver, which was forced to close, but realizing that Burnaby was short of groceries from other parts of India — namely, their home region — they were determined to keep going.
While competition is strong, they are not trying to take business from other stores, but rather are striving to fill a gap for people looking for all kinds of groceries from India and other Asian markets, Mehta said.
The supermarket is solely owned and operated by Manasi Mehta while her husband is in the process of kick-starting his tech business — a food delivery application.
Back in India, the Mehtas ran a resort near Mumbai. While it is still generates revenue for the couple, the family decided to move overseas for better career opportunities and a better lifestyle.
In naming the store the Shree Supermarket, Mehta said they wanted to appeal to the minority immigrants as well as the majority. "Shree is a respectful pronoun used generally in Western and South India," Manasi Mehta said. "There is no single Gujarati grocery store in Vancouver or Burnaby. There is one called Patel supermarket in Surrey, but majority of these stores are in Surrey."
While other Indian grocers carry some Gujarati, Maharashtrian and South Indian products, they are dominated by North Indian food, she explained. Through Shree supermarket, they hope to make these products available closer to home.
"There are so many techies from Hyderabad and Southern India that we met here," she said. "And when we were at the Garba Dandiya event organized by Gujarati Society of BC, there were people telling us to go to Surrey for some groceries, which is when we realized there are no Gujarati or South Indian store here in Burnaby.”
The experience over the first 10 days after the store's opening has been good.
Jatin Mehta said, “Even my wife is feeling happy when somebody's just dropping by and speaking their mother tongue, Marathi and Gujarati."
“It feels like we have someone to speak to and always connected to our culture.”
They have groceries and produce that are hard to find in other stores — including Filipino, Fijian and Latino goods — making it a one-stop shop.
Some of the unique finds in the store include Vellari (Indian cucumber), taro leaves, fresh Indian methi and Gujarat’s beloved jackfruit.
The store is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
If there is enough demand, the store hopes to extend its hours until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., Manasi Mehta said.
There is a long road ahead for the couple and the store, but for now, Mehta believes the couple's hard work will pay off: "If you continue to do your work, you’ll automatically reap benefits."