Business profile Ganesh Brothers & Grocery

The flavors of India on the shelf

Owner Viral Shah sells a variety of food at his store in Normandy Shopping Center

March 14, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

Galina Artamonova of Ellicott City surveyed the rows of spice mixes at Ganesh Brothers & Grocery, a new store selling Indian food in Ellicott City. "What to buy?" she muttered, almost to herself.

Artamonova, who is from Russia, said some of her co-workers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are Indian, and she has grown to like the highly flavored food of their native country. "I like Indian food," she said this week. "I like spicy."

After surveying the shelves for several more minutes, she purchased a box of fish biryani flavoring to use in a seafood dinner that night.

Ganesh Brothers, run by Viral Shah, opened in the Normandy Shopping Center in October, moving from Catonsville. Despite the store's name, Shah said, there is no brother. He chose the name because he likes the sound. His father was at the store that day, helping stock food on the shelves and in the freezers.

Shah said he grew up in Gujarat, on the west coast of India, and moved to Maryland in 1990. From 1990 to 1993, he worked for House of Spices in Forestville, he said.

He opened the Catonsville store in November 1993. That store, Ganesh Groceries, was off U.S. 40. Over time, he said, it became surrounded by auto garages, making it nearly impossible to find from the street, he said. "Only my best customers from before would come inside," Shah said.

His new location, formerly a video store, has plenty of parking and gets foot traffic from shoppers visiting other stores in the plaza. And, at 2,700 square feet, it is three times larger than the Catonsville store, he said.

Shah said the larger store allows him to stock a greater variety of items. An entire section is devoted to snack foods, such as crunchy dried noodles, and he has a wall of freezers, up from two at his previous location.

Shah said frozen foods are his best sellers. Packaged entrees such as chicken tikka masala and chicken pad Thai share freezer space with garlic naan, vegetable masala burgers and spinach paneer. Frozen samosas are available stuffed with potatoes, chicken and other ingredients.

Shelves offer products from India, including canned rasgulla, or sweet cottage cheese balls that are eaten for dessert; a variety of cookies; mango puree; chutneys; pickles; spices; beans, rice and more. Several varieties of ghee, the clarified butter that is a staple of Indian cooking, are offered, as well as Indian teas, coffees, energy drinks that can be mixed with milk, and mango drinks.

Bargain-hunters in search of large quantities of spices, flour or rice can find plenty at Ganesh. A 4-pound bag of dried cumin sells for $12.49. Other spices sold by the bag include chili, turmeric powder, cinnamon sticks, fenu- greek seeds, coriander and coconut powder.

Twenty-pound bags of flour used to make Indian breads such as chapatti and roti are stacked near the front entrance, near jugs of olive and canola oils. Customers can buy three liters of olive oil for $14.99, and can pick up a 10-pound bag of basmati rice for $10.99, or 20 pounds of jasmine rice for $9.99.

Shah said that while about 70 percent of his customers are Indian, the store seems to attract shoppers of all nationalities.

Rachel Schaefer, who lives in Clarksville, rushed into the store recently to buy a bag of frozen potato samosas. "My son is in a book club, and it's a book about India. So we're serving this as a snack," she said.

Shah said he is pleased with his new location. "There's more parking, more space."

Ganesh Brothers & Grocery is in the Normandy Shopping Center, 8450 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. Phone: 410-203-2525.

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