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The Weekend Desk Report

"A fight broke out over shopping carts at the Patel Brothers grand opening in Niles on Thursday morning," the Tribune reports.

The largest retail chain of Indian grocery stores in North America, founded in Chicago, was prepared. After a Hindu priest's blessing, as well as crowd control by private security and local police, shopping and samosa sampling quickly resumed on the first of a four-day grand opening weekend. The excitement drew thousands, some of whom waited for two hours in the rain.

"When we opened the first shop, it was 800 square feet on Devon," said Talashi Patel, co-founder of Patel Brothers. "Today it's more." Thousands of square feet more.

The original Patel Brothers, open since 1974, still stands in the Little India area of the West Rogers Park neighborhood.

I did not know that.



"After years of working in factory assembly lines throughout the city of Chicago, opportunity came knocking when a small Indian grocery store was for sale on little known Devon Avenue," the company's website says.

"A pair of brothers and their families decided to take on this new venture and by pooling meager savings they were able to purchase the small grocery located at 2034 W. Devon Avenue. In September of 1974, Patel Brothers was born."


"Patel Brothers, Inc. (doing business as Patel Brothers) is an Asian-American supermarket chain based in Hanover Park, Illinois," according to Wikipedia.

"Patel Brothers is the largest Indian-American supermarket chain in the United States with 57 locations in 19 states, primarily in New Jersey, due to its large Indian population. Patel Brothers offers online shopping for the contiguous U.S. through its website, which is fulfilled by its Hanover Park, Illinois location. The chain was founded by brothers Mafat and Tulsi Patel and is operated by Mafat's sons, Swetal and Rakesh Patel."


"By the 1990s Patel Brothers had become the established Indian grocery store in Chicago, Mafat Patel recalls: 'People were coming from Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas. Every weekend, the used to come shop here,'" according to 2016's Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration.

He remembered how a large parking lot on the cross street of Rockwell Avenue and Devon Avenue would fill up with cars with license plates from these states.

This popularity led to the opening of stores in major cities across the United States - New York, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, extending across 52 locations.

These are managed by members of five generations of the extended family and supplied by four distribution hubs located in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Houston.

As an enterprise of an efficient and modern supply network and distribution chain of multiple ethnic grocery stores has spread across the United States, Patel family members have kept the mega-business afloat.

In the 1990s Mafat Patel's sons gained degrees in finance and marketing and assisted in developing a nodal distribution network business model called Raja Foods Inc.

One son, Swetal, remembers that "it was time to shift away from bringing in 55-pound bags of chili powder and selling 55 bags of chili powder. It's time to sell branded chili powder, branding whole chili, everything was in a brand at that time."

The packaging of food took place under the Swad label.

With the organization of Raja Foods, spices, vegetables and grains were packaged and sealed in the port city of Kandla in India and then shipped off to New York and other ports and transported directly to the Patel Brothers warehouses.

From two containers that shipped to each warehouse every month to two containers arriving every day!

While someone has to service the front counter of Patel Brothers grocery store, according to Swetal Patel, the 21st-century ethnic grocery business is a virtual system of information management: "All about forecasting. It's just forecast after forecast after forecast and . . . information into your computer and giving your numbers and saying that this is what your requirements are going to be."

An ethnic grocery store is no longer a brick-and-mortar family enterprise in a back alley, but a global network of securing good deals with your vendors so that the store and its architecture can be a stage of their display.

The process of stocking and staging merchandise has evolved since the 1980s, leading to a major change in the interior layout of the grocery store.

With the introduction of forklifts and electric jacks, the process of unloading merchandise in the back room has been mechanized.

The Patel Brothers distribution center has nine forklifts and 11 electric jacks.

While the back-store section on Devon Avenue has shrunk, an enormous Raja Foods warehouse, located at 8110 N. St. Louis Avenue in the city of Skokie, 3.3 miles from the grocery store, is the primary storage.

"Unlike the grocery store, with its Indiana-looking facade, the warehouse is modern and unassuming: a brick-faced building with a modest vinyl banner nailed onto the facade announcing 'Raja Food: Wholesalers of International Food.'"


When they opened in suburban Dallas, heh-heh.




Tour of the Patel Brothers in Sunrise, Florida.


Mafat Patel.


See also: Michael Patel's block party.


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Posted on October 5, 2019

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