Interview with Pramod Shah, December 6, 2021

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Interview with Pramod Shah, December 6, 2021


Asian Americans
Cooking, American
Cooking, Indian
Asian American grocers







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Betsy Brody


Pramod Shah

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5.4 Interview with Pramod Shah, December 6, 2021 2021oh002_di_002 01:48:35 ohdi Digging In di001 How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped Asian Dallas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans This project is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship. Asian Americans Texas--History Cooking, American Cooking, Indian Asian American grocers Pramod Shah Betsy Brody wav oh-audio-dig-shah_pramod_20211206.wav 1:|44(8)|54(6)|65(11)|78(13)|105(12)|113(1)|123(7)|137(2)|166(5)|183(12)|254(4)|292(2)|322(6)|372(5)|404(1)|425(1)|435(1)|480(7)|565(6)|589(13)|718(3)|778(7)|797(7)|827(10)|839(3)|873(14)|955(6)|1003(1)|1022(6)|1064(1)|1100(1)|1135(5)|1153(8)|1167(8)|1193(7)|1242(1)|1292(2)|1309(1)|1334(10)|1365(4)|1378(8)|1397(10)|1421(13)|1483(8)|1521(15)|1567(2)|1653(15)|1816(3)|1851(4)|1883(4)|1894(1)|1919(11)|1934(7)|1949(7)|1971(4)|1998(5)|2011(5)|2047(8)|2066(1)|2119(1) 0 Aviary audio 0 Introduction Asian American grocers ; Asian Americans ; Cooking, American ; Indian cooking ; Texas--History 31 Coming to Texas from India/ Working at an Indian grocery store in Houston Asian grocery ; Houston ; India ; Indian grocery store ; Texas 496 Coming to Dallas to open a new Indian grocery store Asian grocery store ; Dallas ; Houston ; Indian grocery store ; Richardson ; Taj Mahal Imports 32.95389154793355, -96.73798630392501 17 861 Early advertising and outreach to Indians using the White Pages advertising ; gradn opening ; marketing ; White Pages 998 Initally stocking Taj Mahal Imports beans ; Houston ; products ; spices ; Taj Mahal Imports ; wholeslers 1165 Advertising and building relationships with customers advertising ; customers ; expansion ; flyers ; growth ; mailing list ; marketing ; relationships 1345 Importing directly from India/ Demand from customers for particular products exporters ; imports ; India ; London ; products ; rice ; wholesalers 1897 Responding to demand for British products British ; British Embassy ; Cadbury ; Dallas ; embassy ; Indians ; London ; motels 2073 Impact of Y2K hiring on customer base at Taj Mahal Imports bridge ; friendship ; friendships ; Indians ; vegetables ; Y2K 2161 Stocking fresh vegetables at Taj Mahal Imports bridge ; local produce ; mango ; mangoes ; vegetables 2290 Taj Mahal Imports as a community hub/ Formation of India Association associations ; bridge ; celebrations ; community ; Dallas ; festivals ; hub ; India Association ; Indian community ; information ; kite festival 2484 Involvement with activities of Indian groups in Dallas associations ; festivals ; Holi ; Krishna ; products ; religion ; statues ; Taj Mahal Imports ; temples 2698 Selling phone cards at Taj Mahal Imports hub ; phone cards 2786 Selling kitchen utensils for Indian cooking at Taj Mahal Imports cooking ; kitchen utensils ; rice ; tea 2930 Renting out Indian movies at Taj Mahal Imports India ; Mahabharat and Ramayan ; movie rental ; movies ; rental ; television ; VCR ; VHS ; videos 3309 Community events associations ; India Association 3447 Expansion and addition of Chaat House fast food corner Asian grocery ; expand ; expansion ; fast food ; growth ; Indian grocery store 3645 Creating rangoli display in the store at Diwali art ; bridge ; celebrations ; Dallas Morning News ; Diwali ; expansion ; growth ; holidays ; hub ; newspapers ; rangoli 4015 Taj Mahal Imports as an anchor for Indian shopping center anchor ; bangles ; Indian products ; jewelry ; luggage ; sari 4140 Chaat food items sold at Taj Mahal Imports/ Increase in American customers bridge ; chaat ; coconut ; cooking classes ; culture ; educate ; education ; fast food ; juice ; labor ; snacks ; sugarcane 4556 Selling ayurvedic products/herbal supplements 4706 Language books for American born kids to learn Indian languages educate ; education ; English ; language 4796 Carrying cricket equipment cricket ; games 4944 Involvement with the Dallas Carrom Association, Cowboy Carrom Association, and carrom ; Cowboy Carrom Association ; Dallas Carrom Association 5395 Reflections on running Tak Mahal Imports connect ; connections ; fundraising ; India ; India Association ; Indian community ; relationship 6187 Keeping a list of product names in many different Indian languages India ; language ; products 6296 Sweets and celebrations at Taj Mahal Imports celebrations ; dessert ; desserts ; hub ; India ; parties ; products ; sweets ; weddings (00:00:00) BRODY This is Betsy Brody. Today is December 6, 2021. I am interviewing for the first time Mr. Pramod Shah. This interview is taking place in my home office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is possible thanks to the support of a Mellon/ ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship and is part of the project entitled &quot ; Digging In: How Food, Culture, and Class Shaped the Story of Dallas.&quot ; Hello, Mr. Shah. Welcome and thank you for sitting for this interview. Why don&#039 ; t we start? Tell me where and when you were born. (00:00:34) PRAMOD SHAH I born in India on October 20, 1949. I came to USA, May 1st, 1981. (00:00:49) BRODY What brought you to Texas? (00:00:53) PRAMOD SHAH Started with Houston, Texas. And I was working in an Indian grocery store in Houston, Texas. (00:01:02) BRODY What was the name of that store? (00:01:04) PRAMOD SHAH Oh. (00:01:05) RENUKA SHAH (Inaudible) (00:01:15) PRAMOD SHAH Lex Enterprise, okay, (00:01:19) BRODY So you were there in Houston at Lex Enterprise for how long? (00:01:23) PRAMOD SHAH About one and a half year. (00:01:26) BRODY Had you done grocery store business before anywhere else? In India? (00:01:33) PRAMOD SHAH Ah no. No, no. (00:01:34) BRODY What did you do in India? What was your area? (00:01:36) PRAMOD SHAH In India, I was working with some, you know, company in accounts department. (00:01:44) BRODY So back to Houston, you were in Houston and you were working there and then what? How did you end up in Dallas? Tell me about your story. (00:01:51) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. When I was working in Houston, I learned a lot from there. And the owner of that shop, was a brother of my very good friend in India. We used to... We were in admission at University of Baroda and the owner of the Lex Enterprise, his younger brother was in there. We were in the same class and actually so many times I used to teach him- that brother- about the accounts, all that stuff. So he met me in India...the, Mr. Patel, the owner of this Lex Enterprise. He met me in India in 14th January? And that is, you know, in Gujarat, it is a kite festival. (00:02:54) BRODY The kite festival. (00:02:56) PRAMOD SHAH So, usually in the kite festival, I usually go in his house. We didn&#039 ; t know we were Mr. Patel. We didn&#039 ; t know. But his younger brother? Yeah. So we met at the terrace of his house. (00:03:16) BRODY In India. (00:03:17) PRAMOD SHAH In India. And I don&#039 ; t know. Somehow he like my nature. He was there. He usually comes every year the for the kite festival also. So he liked me. So the...he must have talked to his father and brother, younger brother about me. They must have told about me, whatever you know. I...I was...The way I was a good friend. And so he, so very next day there are two days for the kite festival, fourteenth and fifteenth of January. So he told me- my, his, his brother, the younger brother, he was knowing that I&#039 ; m getting, after a few, few weeks, I have an appointment for the U.S.A. Yeah, my sister in law had filed for us. (00:04:19) BRODY Oh, OK, so you were planning on coming to the United States anyway? (00:04:23) PRAMOD SHAH Anyway, yeah. So, at that time, he told, so that talk, they have done at night at the fourteenth night. And next day, he says &quot ; OK. Hey, Pramod, I know that you are coming to the United States.&quot ; I say, &quot ; Yeah. How come you know that?&quot ; The guy-&quot ; Yeah, I know what day you have an interview with the American Embassy? And so yes. So, what are you going to do?&quot ; I say, &quot ; Well, I&#039 ; m a Commerce graduate, so maybe I will have some job.&quot ; And he says &quot ; OK. So you know what? Go straight to Houston.&quot ; Well, I say &quot ; No, I-we- have to go to New York first because my brother in law has filed for us, so we have to go there.&quot ; So, &quot ; OK, give me your brother in law&#039 ; s name, number. I will talk to him about your job.&quot ; So he must&#039 ; ve done the same, you know, within two or three days, he had done that also and then he says,&quot ; OK, yeah, yeah, you can. You can go there, and stay there for a two weeks or whatever you like, and then come to Houston.&quot ; (00:05:34) BRODY What did he have in mind for you? (00:05:37) PRAMOD SHAH He just he was offering the job. (00:05:41) BRODY At the Lex Enterprises? (00:05:44) PRAMOD SHAH Indian grocery store in Houston. OK, but when he went there in the in the store, my God, he was not only the Indian grocery only, but there was lots of luggage, and there radio clocks and lots of things besides that, also including TV also. (00:06:07) BRODY So that surprised you that it was more than just a grocery store, more than just food? (00:06:11) PRAMOD SHAH Right? Yes. So, so he gave me a work-only the accounting work in the beginning. But he told me whenever somebody is not here in the store, you come. And so that you can learn everything about the store. And that is what going on since about one and half a year. Yeah. And meanwhile, and meanwhile, one of his friend, he&#039 ; s my owner&#039 ; s friend, he also came to know about me. And he what he came, he says, &quot ; Pramod, I want to talk to you something. I said, &quot ; OK, you can talk to me today.&quot ; I had a separate meeting room, also for accounting work, so we went there and he told me about, &quot ; I am interested in opening a grocery store. Somewhere in Texas. So are you interested?&quot ; That&#039 ; s what he told me. &quot ; Well, um. Yeah, I&#039 ; m OK. Yeah. I mean, interested.&quot ; Because what happened is at that time, that store, there were three partners in that store. Mr. Patel plus two other partners, but somehow they were not paying the bills. But, you know, on time in all this thing, and his friend who came to me, he was knowing all these things because that friend had also given a loan to them. So he knows that this is not going to last longer time. So he told me all these things later on. And this is OK...So, became to myself and him. We came to Dallas, driving, to find out the location. During this one in half-year in the Indian grocery store, I came to know lots of people of Dallas. Because at that time, there was no good or accurate Indian grocery store in Dallas. So they have no choice but to come to Houston so many used to come there. (00:08:52) BRODY So you knew there was a demand? (00:08:53) PRAMOD SHAH To know so many people because I I was from Baroda, the name of the city, right? And they were also Barodians. So when they come, they come and say, &quot ; Hey, we come from Dallas to get the grocery and I have never seen you here before.&quot ; I said, &quot ; No, I&#039 ; m a new guy here.&quot ; So, &quot ; OK, where you...You came from where?&quot ; I said, I was, &quot ; I came from Baroda.&quot ; &quot ; Oh, we are also Barodians!&quot ; So, that&#039 ; s the way I had a lots of telephone numbers also for all this. Yes. When you come to Dallas, OK, come to, you know? So, we can become a friend, just, you know, like that. (00:09:32) BRODY So you came to Dallas and you looked for a location. How did you come? Where was the location that you decided on? (00:09:40) PRAMOD SHAH You know, the gentleman was a very, very clever guy. Very clever. He has studied a lot about the Indian population in Dallas area also, and he has studied a lot. So he kept straight to the Richardson. And we drove around everywhere, you know, to taking the exit of each and every Richardson area exit, like we started with the Spring Valley Road, then Beltline, then Campbell and Arapaho. We were looking for the location for that. (00:10:17) BRODY What were you looking for? (00:10:19) PRAMOD SHAH And we found out there was lots of good population in Richardson for Indian people. (00:10:24) BRODY So you decided on Richardson and what year was this? (00:10:28) PRAMOD SHAH That was 1982, 1982, right? Yeah. For location. Yes, 1980. (00:10:36) BRODY So where was that location? (00:10:38) PRAMOD SHAH That was in the southwest corner of Spring Valley and Beltline. (00:10:46) RENUKA SHAH Beltline. (00:10:47) PRAMOD SHAH Beltline Road. (00:10:52) RENUKA SHAH Our location was Beltline and 75. (00:10:53) PRAMOD SHAH Oh, 75, sorry. (00:10:54) RENUKA SHAH Beltline. (00:10:55) PRAMOD SHAH Southwest corner of Beltline and 75, highway 75. (00:10:59) BRODY Got it. Well, what was Dallas like when you got here? You mentioned that there were- there was a pretty good population of Indians in Richardson. Just kind of paint a picture for me. What was Dallas like when you got here? (00:11:12) PRAMOD SHAH Well, it is, for us, definitely, it&#039 ; s a new city. Yeah. And she was working in Houston. So, yeah, the location we have selected. So and we were in the south west corner and the southeast corner, there was a, and what is the name of that bank? (00:11:43) RENUKA SHAH At that time it was something called... (00:11:44) PRAMOD SHAH There&#039 ; s was a bank on there. And she had an experience of banking work in India. So she wants to get a job there. (00:11:53) BRODY OK, great. (00:11:54) PRAMOD SHAH So then we have an, got an apartment rental. And the location was fixed, so I, next, is my work is now because it is just an open big area. So I had to put the, all the everything, you know, the shelvings- where to put and how to put, and all this thing. And we got all those stuff. (00:12:20) BRODY And tell me, tell me about that. Just the sort of the nuts and bolts of starting a business, you know, the permits and the, you know, the shelving and all the things that you&#039 ; re talking about... Sort of walk me through how, what did you do? What was the process like? (00:12:37) PRAMOD SHAH You to go to the Richardson City office? We got the name also, you know, you have to your registered the name and everything. (00:12:48) BRODY Yeah. So tell me what was the name of the store? (00:12:51) PRAMOD SHAH Taj Mahal Imports. (00:12:55) BRODY How did you decide on that name? (00:12:57) PRAMOD SHAH Because Taj Mahal is, for the Indian, Taj Mahal is a very common... (00:13:02) RENUKA SHAH Known name. (00:13:05) PRAMOD SHAH Known name. So we decided, &quot ; Taj Mahal Imports.&quot ; (00:13:08) BRODY So you went to City Hall, registered the name &quot ; Taj Mahal Imports.&quot ; (00:13:13) PRAMOD SHAH Company&#039 ; s name, everything. Legally whatever we have to do? Yes. Then we went to City of Dallas Health Department. (00:13:24) BRODY What, what did you need to do with the Health Department? (00:13:29) PRAMOD SHAH Just to know the app? What are the laws? (00:13:32) BRODY Yes. (00:13:32) PRAMOD SHAH About the- to open the store also. And the how many restrooms you want, how many these want, all those kind of stuff. (00:13:45) BRODY Did you... (00:13:47) PRAMOD SHAH And to get the permit also from them? So they give us in writing... (00:13:51) BRODY The health permit? Did you rent or own that space? (00:13:56) PRAMOD SHAH No. Rent. (00:13:57) BRODY You rented the space and how large was it? (00:14:00) PRAMOD SHAH It was...The first one was about two- 2200 square feet. (00:14:05) BRODY 2200. Were you in the end, were you happy about that location? Was it a good location for drawing the customers? (00:14:15) PRAMOD SHAH I called all those friends who give me the number. They say, &quot ; Oh my God, Pramod, this is the best!&quot ; (00:14:23) BRODY Who were these? Who were the customers initially that you that that first came to the store when you were first opening? (00:14:32) PRAMOD SHAH (Speaks to Renuka Shah in Gujurati) (00:14:33) RENUKA SHAH Who were the customers? (00:14:35) PRAMOD SHAH Oh, customers, first customers? No. OK. They. It just started out those friend... (00:14:45) RENUKA SHAH Majority of them were Patels. (00:14:49) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah, yeah. Main customers in the end, because she worked, before we start the store, when I was getting ready for this, to start the store, before that, she had to work. Very good. And calling all the Indian populations, you can say, okay, last name &quot ; Patel,&quot ; &quot ; Shah&quot ; all those, we know the last name of the Indian people. (00:15:16) BRODY So did you go through the phone book? (00:15:19) RENUKA SHAH The White Pages? (00:15:20) PRAMOD SHAH White Pages. I went through all on &quot ; Subramaniam&quot ; came from the South. All those kind of...We know that. So, yeah. She called everybody to be able to start the store and Indian grocery store and not like the other small Indian grocery store, which is about 600-700 square foot area. (00:15:43) BRODY Right. This was much bigger. So when you called them, you told them, you&#039 ; re opening this store, it&#039 ; s going to be bigger. It&#039 ; s going to be different. Was there a big grand opening event or anything like that? (00:15:59) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Yeah. Yes. (00:16:01) BRODY What was that like? Tell me what that day was like for you? (00:16:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Before that, yeah. I think we didn&#039 ; t put any sale paper or anything, right? (00:16:10) RENUKA SHAH We had a grand opening. (00:16:12) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah, we did, too. Then the address also in the same book. Right? So we had the addresses also so grand opening sale with the list of the order items and we send it by mail to everyone. (00:16:29) BRODY So you oh, so you sent a flier with information about your store, the address, the grand opening and some of the items. So what were the items in the first, the first sort of stage? (00:16:43) PRAMOD SHAH Food items, spice items, everything. Beans and sell all of the spices? (00:16:53) BRODY Yeah. So initially before the store opened, you needed to stock the store. And so tell me about how you decided what to order and where you ordered it from and the process of filling that store with things? (00:17:15) PRAMOD SHAH That thing...One and a half year I worked in the Indian grocery store. (00:17:17) RENUKA SHAH In Houston. (00:17:18) PRAMOD SHAH In Houston. So I know everything in, in that store also where I used to work. I knew from where it is coming, who is giving... (00:17:31) RENUKA SHAH Meaning who are the wholesalers. (00:17:34) BRODY Yes, that&#039 ; s right. (00:17:36) RENUKA SHAH But it was like who are the wholesalers in the US? (00:17:39) PRAMOD SHAH He was getting certain items, even from London, he was importing. And a few items directly from India also. (00:17:48) BRODY OK. (00:17:49) PRAMOD SHAH So I had those names also. (00:17:51) BRODY You had those contacts. (00:17:53) PRAMOD SHAH Contacts. (00:17:54) BRODY So how did you estimate how much you needed initially for the store? (00:17:59) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah, because we were talking to the friends here, Dallas friends. This is this much population. So according to population, yeah, we have, we fill up the stores. (00:18:14) BRODY What were your biggest sellers? (00:18:16) PRAMOD SHAH Biggest sellers was some spices. Spices, spices, beans. And...lots of soft drinks, kind of, you know, then sweets. Then, oh, my God, twenty-six years, later. (00:18:46) RENUKA SHAH But, gradually we added more departments and more variety, like he was about to say. For grocery from UK were sold. As we occupied more and more space, we started importing, and that&#039 ; s when we added more lines of... (00:19:02) PRAMOD SHAH There was one small store, yeah? Next to us and that was going out of business. So we got that extra space also. (00:19:15) BRODY OK. (00:19:16) PRAMOD SHAH After about eight, nine, ten months of the grand opening after that. (00:19:21) BRODY So you grew that quickly? (00:19:22) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Yes. (00:19:25) BRODY So the advertising we talked about initially, you advertised the grand opening. What sorts of things, as you know, as the years went on, did you find to be the most effective for advertising? (00:19:40) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, because that advertising helped us so much as is, they told their friends who didn&#039 ; t get this. So everybody started. So I used to ask, &quot ; OK, you got our sale paper?&quot ; They say, &quot ; No, we are not in your list.&quot ; So I started that also... (00:20:00) BRODY So you started a list just on a notebook when customers came in. (00:20:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (00:20:05) BRODY That&#039 ; s great. (00:20:06) PRAMOD SHAH And all those work (points to Renuka Shah) (00:20:09) BRODY ...your wife did. Fantastic. And so it sounded like you grew pretty quickly. I mean, eight or nine months. So was, was that growth driven by just popularity or more demand. What made you decide to expand so soon? (00:20:27) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. The reason is we...All other small stores, they hardly have like, hardly have 300-400 items? We have more than 1000 items, so big. So that, we need more space accordingly. So we got it also luckily and done everything and people started. You know, I&#039 ; m, I&#039 ; m very good in nature-wise also talking and, you know, if someone comes through after one week with the product, &quot ; This is- Pramod, we didn&#039 ; t like this.&quot ; OK, no problem. Don&#039 ; t worry. I just take it throw it in the garbage in front of you.&quot ; And I says, &quot ; OK, whatever. What else you whatever you like it? You want money? Or do you want to buy?&quot ; &quot ; No, no, I want to buy.&quot ; So you...that way, you know, they say &quot ; Oh my God. That&#039 ; s, that guy. They don&#039 ; t take anything return or anything.&quot ; (00:21:33) BRODY Right? So the customer service and building relationships with your customers, right? So. So tell me more about those types of relationships that you built over the years with customers? Who were most of your customers, Indian- Americans or people who were... (00:21:54) PRAMOD SHAH In the beginning, like the first two or three years, Indians. Indians. &quot ; Indians&quot ; means all 24 states&#039 ; people. (00:22:04) BRODY Yes, India is a big country. So how did you handle that? Because the needs... (00:22:09) PRAMOD SHAH You know, everybody started coming to my store so he says, &quot ; Oh, why don&#039 ; t you get this thing from...&quot ; You know, the south people says &quot ; OK. Do you hear, you, you know, we, we have to have a pickle, this brand, this brand&quot ; and they started giving me all the details. (00:22:25) BRODY So what did you do with that? (00:22:26) PRAMOD SHAH So we started importing directly from India. That after two and a half years of our business, we started importing. But before that we import. We started importing from London. Because all those time, London has a huge population. So __________, yeah. So and there also there are wholesalers. So we got it from them. Then we realized &quot ; Wait a minute. He&#039 ; s also getting from India and we are going so slowly, slowly.&quot ; Then, after five six years of the business, yeah, I started going to India. (00:23:04) BRODY So... (00:23:05) PRAMOD SHAH To meet all those people. (00:23:06) BRODY So you literally went to India physically and met the wholesalers in India. (00:23:12) PRAMOD SHAH In 1988. (00:23:14) RENUKA SHAH The exporters. (00:23:14) BRODY The exporters to the US. In 1988. So after about six years, you decided to do that. So, yeah, tell me more about that. What, where did you go? Who did you talk to? What did you learn? (00:23:29) PRAMOD SHAH All those, you know, the addresses, we used to get it from the, you know, whatever those things we used to import from London. So, suppose, pickle, so varieties, manufacture, what it is- all those things. So all those- cities. I went there, met them. And told them, to do this, So, and my partner, the guy who you know, he was knowing some people in India who were exporters. Yes. I just know where do this product manufactures? Right? And he knew some people. He says, &quot ; Pramod, you, don&#039 ; t worry. I know how to get it.&quot ; So that part, he started, and you know, I said, &quot ; OK, I have given orders to this company.&quot ; Yes, yes. Then to him from there, what he used to do is, he used to call his friend, who is an exporter, OK? This guy, from Hyderabad, &quot ; You will get this merchandise, this quantity.&quot ; Right? So, from everywhere I ordered, I give the list and everything to the partner. And he used to do all this thing. (00:24:56) BRODY So do you mean that the, for instance, the company that manufactures the pickle in India would get it to the exporter. (00:25:06) PRAMOD SHAH Exporter. (00:25:06) BRODY And then the exporter would send it to you here? OK? Yeah. So you had sort of a clearing house in India to get everything to you here? OK. So from all over India, people were fulfilling orders. (00:25:21) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, a very important point I&#039 ; ve forgotten. And during that, I came to know about lots of laws here. (00:25:28) BRODY Yes, the laws here about that. (00:25:30) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Suppose the pickle. So pickle has, oh, you know, weight and everything. So I came to know during this five, six, several years? The bottle has to have a sticker: name of the product, ingredients, weight, but weight in ounce. You can write. You can write &quot ; two hundred gram,&quot ; but into bracket, you have to put the ounce also. (00:26:04) BRODY OK. (00:26:05) PRAMOD SHAH And below that, you had to put &quot ; Product of India.&quot ; So customers should know, all these things. (00:26:14) BRODY So how did you learn about all these laws? (00:26:19) PRAMOD SHAH I have learned all these things in Houston. Because he was also importing, so whatever it was, I was watching, you know, reading all this thinking, &quot ; Oh my God, this is totally different things.&quot ; (00:26:33) BRODY Yeah, so... (00:26:33) PRAMOD SHAH It is not only kilo. You cannot write...OK, you can write &quot ; kilo.&quot ; See the- I know there, the rice, basmati rice, used to come in that store in Houston. Basmati rice. Yeah, five kilo. But underneath, he has to write how many pounds and how many ounces also. (00:26:54) BRODY So who does that, the extra level? (00:26:57) PRAMOD SHAH The manufacturer. (00:26:57) BRODY The manufacturer. (00:26:58) PRAMOD SHAH Indian manufacturer. (00:26:59) BRODY OK. So you have to designate and tell them what you need in terms of- to comply with the law. (00:27:06) PRAMOD SHAH Those manufacturers who are already exporting this thing to all over in Europe. And yeah, they also know what we have to, what they have to write. (00:27:18) BRODY Right. So you can comply with the law. (00:27:19) PRAMOD SHAH But there are some new I have to teach them. (00:27:24) BRODY OK, that&#039 ; s really interesting and not something that you want that, you would know about naturally, right? You had to learn as you as you go. So those regulations and laws? OK, so back to the process of getting these products to your store and onto your shelves. You mentioned that you&#039 ; re, you physically went to India and set up relationships with the different manufacturers of things like pickle and with the spices as well. (00:28:01) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, nuts, spices, there are new...What are the new items coming out in India? (00:28:07) BRODY Oh, right, because you wanted to be able to have the latest things in the store. (00:28:12) PRAMOD SHAH Because India was also progressing at that time. So there are lots of good new items. (00:28:18) BRODY For example, what types of new items were there in the late 80s that were coming out? (00:28:23) PRAMOD SHAH New lots of new varieties of mixes, spice powder, mixing sauce, mixture like garam masala. So garam masala has a lot of varieties or this kind of stuff with, you know, new in India also. So all the stuff we started getting. (00:28:43) BRODY So your customers must have been happy because they were getting the same new items from India here, right here in Texas. (00:28:52) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Mainly the varieties of pickles. Baedecker pickles. These pickles. So many pickles. Yeah. Different, different state has a different different. (00:29:04) BRODY So, yeah, tell me about the people who came to your store. Were coming. You know, they&#039 ; re all people from India who are settled here in Texas for a long time or a short time. But they&#039 ; re here, but they&#039 ; re not necessarily all from the same part of India. So when they would come to your Indian grocery store, were there times that people asked for things that-from their state- that you tried to get into the store? (00:29:35) PRAMOD SHAH And that thing started after like my four, five, six years of importing. After that, they do started, &quot ; Hey, you have this thing? Why don&#039 ; t you have this?&quot ; (00:29:46) BRODY Right. So, for example, what types of things were people asking for? (00:29:51) PRAMOD SHAH They started giving me the sample? (00:29:52) BRODY Oh, really? Like of... (00:29:54) PRAMOD SHAH &quot ; Look, we went to India and we got this thing.&quot ; So that sample has all the, you know, name, in manufacturer&#039 ; s name. (00:30:03) BRODY So and then you would try to get it. (00:30:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (00:30:05) BRODY So. How did you? You&#039 ; re just the, you&#039 ; re here in Texas, and the time zone is different than India. This is before the internet. You know, really before, you know, personal computers were being used in stores... (00:30:22) PRAMOD SHAH Computer, nothing. (00:30:23) BRODY So? So how did you do it? How did you? (00:30:25) PRAMOD SHAH Call. Every day, night? (00:30:26) BRODY Every night you got on the phone? (00:30:28) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, I got to sleep around 1:30 to 2:00 in the morning. Because India&#039 ; s all the offices starts at 11:00. (00:30:40) BRODY Right, so 11:00 o&#039 ; clock. (00:30:41) PRAMOD SHAH Midnight. I go to sleep at night, right and do this job on phone, phone, phone everywhere. (00:30:49) BRODY And. So you had things from every state in India on your store shelves. Yes. And so your customers, you know, what was their reaction to seeing these items from their home state? (00:31:06) PRAMOD SHAH Those calling, seeing, talking to all their friends also. (00:31:13) BRODY Yeah. So the word of mouth was good. (00:31:15) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (00:31:17) BRODY So obviously you had the majority of your customers, as you said, were people who were from India who were here for work. (00:31:26) PRAMOD SHAH Very high number. Lots. (00:31:26) BRODY Yes, lots of Indian folks. Earlier, you mentioned also... (00:31:31) PRAMOD SHAH I go every year to India because of that... (00:31:33) BRODY Because of that to learn more about the different products and so on. Earlier, you mentioned that there were British products as well. Tell me about that. What types of things and why did you stock them? (00:31:45) PRAMOD SHAH What happened in that also...After how many years, I don&#039 ; t know from the store starts, the dollar value, in early 90s, or maybe, it has little bit gone down compared to the British pound. So lots of Gujurati-Indian people living in London, they converted their money and bought the motels here. (00:32:23) BRODY OK, motels, yeah. (00:32:26) PRAMOD SHAH Right. Those people they came here on. Right. And those people, they were, like their kids and all those they were using the different kind of candies there any, which is, you know, it wasn&#039 ; t available here and there are so many items they were used to in London, so they totally gave the list of everything. So, we started from this same supplier that used to give us the groceries and all the other stuff. So that is the reason we started that thing. (00:33:04) BRODY So you started seeing the, stocking the British products because these families were coming from London and the children were accustomed to this? (00:33:15) PRAMOD SHAH They helped me so much the other way? What is that other way? I didn&#039 ; t know that in Dallas, there is a British Embassy. And those people, they have to go to the British Embassy when they come here. And you know that. So went there, and they told the ambassador that all the British stuff is available here. (00:33:38) BRODY Really. So you reached a whole different population just that way. So then did you start seeing British... (00:33:44) PRAMOD SHAH When new people come, from London to Dallas, they have to go to the Embassy. So they gave literally this &quot ; Whenever you want, go to this Taj Mahal Imports.&quot ; Like that. (00:33:58) BRODY To get your Cadburys. What were the British products that were most popular? (00:34:05) PRAMOD SHAH Candies. (00:34:05) BRODY The candies? (00:34:06) PRAMOD SHAH Cookies. (00:34:07) RENUKA SHAH Yes. Cookies and baked beans. (00:34:09) PRAMOD SHAH Baked beans. (00:34:09) RENUKA SHAH All the jams and jellies. (00:34:13) PRAMOD SHAH Eno. Eno. (00:34:13) BRODY I don&#039 ; t know that one. What is that? (00:34:16) RENUKA SHAH It is some baking ingredient? (00:34:20) BRODY OK. OK, yeah. (00:34:23) RENUKA SHAH Softening stuff. (00:34:25) BRODY So you had a connection with a whole different population that had nothing really to do with India at that point. So what about other people in Dallas, other communities? Did you have very many? (00:34:40) PRAMOD SHAH It started. That thing started from year 2000. (00:34:44) BRODY What happened in the year 2000? (00:34:46) PRAMOD SHAH Because lots of people from India came here for Y2K problem. So solving that thing. They were working, very big, all of these Texas Instruments and kind of all those things, and there already, Americans are working there. (00:35:03) BRODY Mm-Hmm. (00:35:03) PRAMOD SHAH So these became friends. (00:35:07) BRODY The Indians and the people who are already here in Texas became friends (00:35:11) PRAMOD SHAH Even sometimes, they bring them... (00:35:12) BRODY To the store. (00:35:13) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. &quot ; You know what? You tasted one pickle. I bought it from here. So let&#039 ; s go.&quot ; So, that&#039 ; s where it started. (00:35:22) BRODY So you started seeing more. (00:35:25) RENUKA SHAH Americans? Yes. Yes, local population. (00:35:28) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (00:35:29) BRODY So that&#039 ; s. (00:35:30) PRAMOD SHAH They started...They came and started even buying the betel nuts? Karela. (00:35:39) BRODY Oh, the bitter melon, (00:35:41) PRAMOD SHAH Bitter melon. Bitter melon. (00:35:42) BRODY That was popular. (00:35:43) PRAMOD SHAH Right? Because this is it. And if you have more sugar and all these things, you must eat that thing. That is what the Indian must have told them. So even the vegetables, they come to buy vegetables also. (00:36:00) BRODY And where did you, how did you stock the vegetables? The fresh vegetables? (00:36:05) PRAMOD SHAH I had a very nice refrigerated vegetable display case. (00:36:12) BRODY Where did you? Who was your supplier? How did you find suppliers for those? (00:36:18) PRAMOD SHAH Local. Yeah. Yeah. (00:36:18) BRODY Even for things like bitter melon. And what were the (00:36:23) PRAMOD SHAH Lots of vegetables? (00:36:24) BRODY Yeah. What were the... (00:36:26) PRAMOD SHAH And a lot, they are big. Lots of Chinese, they have our vegetables source in the downtown Dallas. (00:36:34) BRODY OK, so you were able to stock it. (00:36:36) PRAMOD SHAH We were getting from there also and slowly, slowly, in Florida, there are lots of Indian, Gujarati Indian people. The they also started and yeah, when you were growing these vegetables and all those. So they used to send us, by air, also. (00:36:56) BRODY They would. OK, so tell me about the fruits and vegetables that were the ones that you tried to keep in stock. What were the most popular fruits and vegetables? (00:37:09) PRAMOD SHAH Mainly, mostly vegetables all...You know, the name is very different which you, maybe. Mostly each and every vegetables? Yeah. Whatever the vegetables you go in now in Indian grocery stores? Everything. (00:37:28) BRODY You had that all there then. (00:37:30) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, Gujurati peoples, there have a different kind of vegetables. Maharashtrian people different. So accordingly, South Indian- totally different vegetables. All those vegetables. (00:37:47) BRODY You had all that. What about mangoes? Was that a big? (00:37:50) PRAMOD SHAH Mango in the season? Yes! (00:37:51) BRODY In season. (00:37:52) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah! (00:37:53) BRODY Did you have different varieties of mangoes? (00:37:55) PRAMOD SHAH No. That mean- that mangoes? Not from India. (00:37:59) BRODY No. (00:38:00) PRAMOD SHAH Whatever the varieties of mango in Mexico? Yeah. (00:38:04) BRODY OK. And they sold well. (00:38:07) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah. (00:38:07) BRODY Yeah. (00:38:08) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yes. (00:38:10) BRODY So obviously for the customers who were coming in who were from India, originally your store offered a taste of home and some familiarity. Can you talk to me a little bit about, sort of the, the role that your store played in helping people feel more at home in their new, you know, living here or raising their kids here? (00:38:39) PRAMOD SHAH Varieties of people, things. Yeah. And because we are growing fast and adding lots of items in this. Then the Pakistanis started coming, Bangladeshi started coming, and Nepali people also started coming. (00:39:01) BRODY Did you do you feel like your store was sort of a place where people got information, sort of a community hub? (00:39:13) PRAMOD SHAH Well, it is a very good point. After that, what happened, the population- of Indian population increased so much. Then the Gujarati Association started- Gujarati Samaj. Even Hyderabadi, or Tamil people. All those people had their own association. So I started giving them help whenever they have needs, something, I say, &quot ; OK, I will get it for you.&quot ; (00:39:45) BRODY What kind of things might they need? (00:39:48) PRAMOD SHAH Like suppose. Kite Festival. So the Gujurati Samaj, they wanted to start a Kite Festival here also. So I get all the kites and everything. Thread, kites, everything from India. And the very first time, I says, &quot ; OK, this is- this is a gift from the Taj Mahal Imports.&quot ; So they have a very nice, right? Plus in the very first Kite Festival, there are 150 people came. (00:40:16) BRODY Where was it? (00:40:17) PRAMOD SHAH There? What was that big lake? I forgot. It&#039 ; s been a long time back. So, near some big, very big lake here, (00:40:26) BRODY Here in Dallas? (00:40:27) PRAMOD SHAH In Dallas, they have that. They&#039 ; ve got the permission from that. So. But after that, what happened? The people they wanted to slowly, slowly, they wanted to teach their kids also. So they started coming to the store and buy all the stock there from us. (00:40:49) BRODY So they were happy to have a kite festival in Dallas, and then they also wanted to get the supplies so they could do things at home with their kids. (00:40:59) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, and the Maharashtri people, they like some, you know, the mango pulp. All right. So there are some very good mango pulp available in Maharashtra also. So they give me the can also &quot ; Look, this is the best mango pulp.&quot ; So I started like that. Whoever comes, give me this tip. Yes. (00:41:24) BRODY It&#039 ; s really interesting that as the community grew here, that these associations for the different parts of India started forming here in Dallas. So, you mentioned the kite festival that you were part of. What were some other sort of things that the associations, the various associations were doing that you were involved in? (00:41:44) PRAMOD SHAH So, Holi? (00:41:48) BRODY Tell me about that, what is it? (00:41:49) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, this Hindu temple started, they feel, &quot ; OK, let&#039 ; s start the Holi also.&quot ; So they started that Holi function. (00:42:01) BRODY What is that? What does that look like? (00:42:05) PRAMOD SHAH Holi functions looks like...Mainly, it&#039 ; s a religious thing, you know. They have a fire. They put lots of nice...this and the fire little bit and they, everybody go around and whatever the things they have to say whatever it is, they do that this. And the next day of Holi is the color festival. Right? (00:42:41) BRODY Yes. (00:42:41) PRAMOD SHAH So the colors, they put it on everybody, right? It is, and all these thing is, you know, for us, it is all adding in the item, adding in the item continuously, all this, this then the Krishna Jayanthi, right? So Renuka used to get the nice, small, small Krishna statues and all this thing. So in that also they, you need, you know, the born on the one o&#039 ; clock in the morning of the Krishna. So they put it in that to get. (Speaking in Gujurati to Renuka Shah) What we call that? This is OK... Sleeping things, so they put it there and do this to right everybody to do that thing at home also. They take home and buy this in home. Yes. (00:43:47) BRODY So you were able to supply those things? (00:43:49) PRAMOD SHAH Activities, whatever they need. That also, we started slowly, slowly because all kind of temples, you know, Hindu temple and then the South Indian makes, the Bengali people has a different kind, Maharashtrian people has a different kind. So all of those things. (00:44:06) BRODY All the different supplies you were able... (00:44:08) PRAMOD SHAH Started selling the big temples. (00:44:13) BRODY Oh, a big temple. Like a model? (00:44:15) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, very nice. (00:44:17) BRODY For- what did people use those for? (00:44:20) PRAMOD SHAH For, they put the all the- whatever they get, buy- the statues of gods and all this. They put it. (00:44:29) BRODY In their home? (00:44:29) PRAMOD SHAH In the home. (00:44:30) BRODY Yeah. So did you have a wide variety? That sounds like it takes up a lot of space? Did you stock a lot of the little home temples? (00:44:41) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah. (00:44:42) BRODY How did you... (00:44:43) PRAMOD SHAH Starting from two feet to three feet to four feet? (00:44:46) BRODY And did they sell well? (00:44:47) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah. (00:44:51) BRODY That&#039 ; s really interesting, and I think people were probably grateful to have a place to purchase those. Well, what were some other things in the store that brought people in? Did you do phone cards or videos, things like that? (00:45:14) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (00:45:15) BRODY Tell me about the- let&#039 ; s start with the phone cards. (00:45:17) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, phone cards. You know, and by the time the phone cards started, before then, my store was very famous everywhere or for all the Indians. So whatever the, whoever Indians started the phone card business, they came to us and yes, we started selling phone cards. (00:45:34) BRODY What did people use the phone cards for? Since that&#039 ; s no longer a thing that people use? Tell me about what the, what the function of the phone cards. (00:45:41) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Function of the phone card is you can call and if you use that phone card, calling your parents or something, right? So they have like only like five, five cents per minute, ten cents, so, so, so cheap! When they use their own, it&#039 ; s costly. (00:46:04) BRODY Right. (00:46:05) PRAMOD SHAH Right. So because of that, the phone card sales was like huge. Huge. Very good. (00:46:11) BRODY So just making a long distance call on your phone. International call was quite expensive, but if you purchased a phone card, it was like a prepaid lower per minute fee. Is that right? (00:46:23) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Right. And the kitchen utensils. (00:46:31) BRODY What kinds of kitchen utensils? (00:46:34) PRAMOD SHAH Everything. Whatever you need, you know, required for cooking, (00:46:38) BRODY For Indian cooking? (00:46:39) PRAMOD SHAH Indian cooking.Yes. (00:46:40) BRODY So what were some examples? (00:46:46) PRAMOD SHAH (Speaking Gujurati to Renuka Shah) Starting from easy, easy to the you know, you want to make the tea, when you make the tea, you need a way to handle... (00:47:03) BRODY Right to make it Indian tea. (00:47:05) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. So you put it on, but then you, you cannot do with some thing and you have to use that thing. The tea cooking, roti making stainless steel utensils, you know. And there are lots of varieties. Cooking the roti, to make the roti in this. You need that. (00:47:29) BRODY Special pan. (00:47:31) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. And the, yes, plate to eat? (00:47:39) BRODY Yes. Well, like the stainless steel plates? (00:47:42) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Yes, small bowls. If you have, you know, the liquid stuff. I think spoons. (00:47:51) BRODY All of those things were things that an Indian family might, might use. Were, were people who were not Indian purchasing those as well? (00:48:03) PRAMOD SHAH But we were using very, very good quality of stainless steel in that. See the storage like, you know, you buy, you buy like 4 kilos of rice, so how you put it? So you need the storage area. So that storage is also stainless steel. We used to have a stainless steel can kind of stuff, big one. (00:48:26) BRODY A stainless steel like a bin to put the rice in? (00:48:29) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (00:48:30) BRODY Yes. So it seems like you were thinking of everything that Indian people setting up a household here in Dallas might need to, to stock their kitchen, communicate back home. (00:48:50) PRAMOD SHAH Then the videos started. (00:48:52) BRODY Tell me about the videos. Yes, the videos. (00:48:55) PRAMOD SHAH All kind of videos. Like movies everywhere in India. South Indian movies, South Indian language, Gujarati movies, mainly Hindi movies, Hindi language. All the movies. There were a guy here. He used, he was- all the movies, video, the publicity in India- he had a contact with them. So he used to get it from there. And we were buying from him. (00:49:31) BRODY The VHS tapes? (00:49:33) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, the VHS tapes. (00:49:35) BRODY So how soon after a movie came out in India, were you able to get the VHS? (00:49:42) PRAMOD SHAH Oh...between two, two weeks, less than two weeks. (00:49:44) BRODY Really? (00:49:44) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (00:49:45) BRODY So even if it was in the theater there, you could get it on VHS here. (00:49:50) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Yes. (00:49:52) BRODY So how was the process of renting those movies out? They were rentals, right? (00:49:57) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah. (00:49:58) BRODY So you had sort of a library of movies in the store? (00:50:02) PRAMOD SHAH The big area. From there to there? (Gestures). (00:50:05) BRODY Yeah. So a big area and shelves. Did you have an index or something? How did people find the movies? Oh, like how did they know what you had there? (00:50:18) PRAMOD SHAH They know. They see, by the time, lots of news also coming from India through TV. So they know which are the new movies. And they are...They have their family members, the rest of the family members in India. They also talk. (00:50:35) BRODY Right? (00:50:35) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. So that&#039 ; s the way they know, and they used to come to us. (00:50:43) RENUKA SHAH Also, the supplier of these VHS tapes, like you can call it, like a wholesaler from here. That person would have latest movies. So he would obviously supply to us, so we would know which ones are coming and we were arranging that alphabetical order. (00:51:02) PRAMOD SHAH So, so once, you know, once they are got used to it and they go, &quot ; Hey, Pramod what is a new movie you got?&quot ; That&#039 ; s what they.... (00:51:10) BRODY They just come to you, and they just ask you what&#039 ; s new. And you said you arranged them in alphabetical order and then so people came in and just were browsing like at a library. (00:51:21) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah. And they can even read also, (00:51:24) BRODY They can see it. Yes, with the labels on the side. And then did you have like a membership card or something like that? How did you keep track? (00:51:33) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. It started with the notebook. Yeah. Right? That also alphabetical names, you know? OK, this guy took the movie, date. Right? So the rate is like a day. Right. So when they when they return, &quot ; Ok. All right. Sir, you have to pay $4. Sir, you have to pay.&quot ; They pay. (00:51:59) BRODY Right. At that return time. How much did you charge per day at the beginning? Do you remember? (Pramod Shah gestures) $1? One dollar a day? (00:52:10) PRAMOD SHAH It also depends again. So on some movies, they&#039 ; re costly for us. So we charge $2. (00:52:15) BRODY OK. So there were different categories in movies as well. (00:52:19) PRAMOD SHAH If the movies comes from South India, that is also costly. So because in South, they were not watching in...They go straight to the theater. So that may maybe a manufacturing in VHS, doing the VHS of those movie must be costly in India also. So accordingly, they charge us so. (00:52:45) BRODY So. Were people pretty good about bringing the movies back? (00:52:50) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (00:52:51) BRODY Or did you have problems with that? OK, that&#039 ; s good. That&#039 ; s good. Also, was there damage ever to the movies, to the VHS? Did you run into that? (00:53:01) PRAMOD SHAH Very rare. No, I don&#039 ; t think so. (00:53:02) BRODY Good. People really just watched them and brought them back. That&#039 ; s great. Well, I wonder if did, do you get much feedback about when you started the videos, were people really happy about it? (00:53:17) PRAMOD SHAH Very happy. One, what the very, very happy who were very, very happy. You know, Mahabharat and Ramayan. Not even the video. Not the movies. And the Mahabharat and Ramayan starts in India. Oh my God. In India, the you know what happened in India at the time? When the Mahabharat and Ramayan starts, nobody go outside the house. Everybody&#039 ; s sitting. (00:53:46) BRODY And watching the TV. (00:53:47) PRAMOD SHAH Watching the TV. (00:53:48) BRODY Yeah, this is on. How often was this on? (00:53:53) PRAMOD SHAH Every? (00:53:55) RENUKA SHAH I don&#039 ; t know how frequently the episodes where shown on TV there. (00:54:01) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, we used to...You know, it&#039 ; s a long thing, so it comes every day. Mahabharat. Every day, in the evening time in India. (00:54:10) BRODY OK. OK. (00:54:11) PRAMOD SHAH So at that time, everybody sitting here, all the businesspeople are sitting and women. (00:54:19) BRODY So it was a very popular show and it was on frequently. So since it was on TV, how did you get it here? (00:54:29) PRAMOD SHAH Same thing. VHS. Yeah, yeah. We used to get all the supplies and get it? Yes. Yes. (00:54:38) BRODY OK, so then that did you just have one copy of each or did you need much more than that? (00:54:46) PRAMOD SHAH We get one copy original delivered for this and the rest of the copies, we, there is the one machine you can transport from there, OK? So we used to do that to make it more. (00:55:02) BRODY Because you had a lot of demand. (00:55:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (00:55:06) BRODY That&#039 ; s interesting. So tell me now about community events, things that your store at this point, you&#039 ; re a very big store, very popular store and lots of ties within the community here in Dallas. What types of community activities or community events were you involved in as leaders in the community? (00:55:36) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, lots of is all, as I told you, you know, it&#039 ; s all kind of-Hyderabadi Association, Telegu Association, Tamil Association. All those associations started. Right. So when they have some functions and needed some special items from Hyderabad or yes, yes,yes...They give us all the details, and we tried to get it and give it to them. (00:56:03) BRODY Right. (00:56:05) PRAMOD SHAH Mainly India Association. Huge. (00:56:07) BRODY Yeah. Tell me about your sort of interaction with them. (00:56:11) PRAMOD SHAH India started? You know, August? Fifteenth August. Big function. Very, very big functions. More than twelve, thirteen thousand Indians used to come. (00:56:35) BRODY Where, where did they host, where did they hold those events? (00:56:37) PRAMOD SHAH They started with one big hall, very, very big hall. The City of Dallas hall and big hall. Right? And they have there, all kind of items, means food items. Whoever wants to do the business there, they gave us some this area. (00:56:57) BRODY Like a booth? (00:56:58) PRAMOD SHAH Booth. And everybody knew that, so that&#039 ; s the way they started. (00:57:03) BRODY What did you do in your booth? (00:57:06) PRAMOD SHAH No, we didn&#039 ; t start it right away, OK? Because in the food, we started up in 98. 98, right? Taj Chaat House. (00:57:22) RENUKA SHAH And before that, we had Chaat Corner here. (00:57:26) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. 1996. We started doing that thing. Yes. There&#039 ; s a fast food we call &quot ; Chaat House.&quot ; (00:57:40) BRODY And was this something that you sold in the store as well? (00:57:44) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, in this we created, you know...after, in the year 2001. We moved that location. The same shopping center. We got 8000 square feet. There was empty...It must be something there and there. And so we rent that. We moved our store from there to the 8000 square feet. And even only after one year, there was another 8000. You know, next to it. We got that also. We rent that also. The total store is in the 2000. (00:58:39) RENUKA SHAH 1996. (00:58:40) PRAMOD SHAH No. (00:58:41) RENUKA SHAH 1996. (00:58:42) PRAMOD SHAH 1996. 16000 square feet. (00:58:46) BRODY 16000. So you had started out at two thousand square feet and you ended up by (00:58:52) PRAMOD SHAH 16000 square feet. Biggest Indian grocery store in U.S.A. at that time. Because that is the reason because there are lots of people in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, but their real estate is very costly in those areas, in these cities. Here in Texas. Yeah, it&#039 ; s not much. So they, they have a very hard time if they want to open this big. They may be end up paying, oh my God, sixty, seventy thousand per month. (00:59:26) BRODY Yeah. So how much, do you remember how much you were paying? (00:59:29) PRAMOD SHAH Ah, we were paying oh, sixteen, oh oh. (Speaking to Renuka Shah) 16000 multiplied by point seven zero. (00:59:50) BRODY Point seven zero per square foot. Yeah. So much less expensive than Chicago or New York. (00:59:58) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. They pay there...I know that there are lots of those people also need to contact me, you know. So they pay 150 to 250 per square feet. (01:00:10) BRODY Well, wow. So, it&#039 ; s a lot less expensive. So you had a lot more square feet to fill up in that in that store. What were the various new departments that you added when you expanded? (01:00:22) PRAMOD SHAH Started making rangoli... (01:00:23) BRODY And yet let&#039 ; s hear about that, the rangoli. Can you tell me more about it? (01:00:29) PRAMOD SHAH Rangoli specially (Gestures to Renuka Shah) (01:00:33) BRODY Tell me about the rangoli. When do you do? When did you do that? (01:00:37) PRAMOD SHAH 90 (Speaks in Gujurati to Renuka Shah) 96. Sorry! Sorry, sorry. (01:00:44) BRODY 1996. So you had all this new space so well, and this is, what did you decide to do? (01:00:51) PRAMOD SHAH The Diwali time? Make a rangoli. (01:00:52) BRODY Yeah. So for people who don&#039 ; t know what a rangoli is, tell me what is a rangoli? (01:00:58) PRAMOD SHAH People, mostly know. Because before we started this rangoli, you know, we have already started selling the rangoli also. The Gujurati people, they do, they use more. (01:01:12) BRODY So at Diwali time, you do a (01:01:16) PRAMOD SHAH Gujurati and Maharashtrian, both. (01:01:18) BRODY And it&#039 ; s a form of art. (01:01:21) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (01:01:21) BRODY So where is it? (01:01:22) PRAMOD SHAH They must be using, doing it, teaching their kids in the house or something. (01:01:27) BRODY So you were selling the sort of supplies. (01:01:30) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:01:30) BRODY To people. But then in this in the story, you created a (01:01:34) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, (01:01:35) BRODY a large one? (01:01:37) PRAMOD SHAH A large one. (01:01:37) BRODY Yeah. How long did it take to do that? (01:01:40) PRAMOD SHAH Well, it depends. And yeah, but easily, easily, oh, my God. I used to keep the track also of hours. Like, five people went- about five people work on it and each must have spent about more than about 200 hours. (01:02:10) BRODY Really. (01:02:13) PRAMOD SHAH A lot. Because lots and lots of... There are- it starts with the painting first. Then filling, drawing first. Then, starting- which colors will go on head, face, and all those stuff. To do all these things. And for that also you have to mix the- create the colors also. (01:02:37) BRODY And you create them out of sort of a sand, right? (01:02:40) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, yes. One guy is doing that, one is doing the picture, one is started putting this thing, all this thing. Five people minimum per, no matter how big it is. Yes. (01:02:54) BRODY Then did people come in and watch the work being done? Did people, customers come and watch? (01:03:02) PRAMOD SHAH Watch? We will start, you know, start doing, and then it got very famous. Very, very famous. (01:03:08) BRODY Yeah. How did it get famous? (01:03:11) PRAMOD SHAH People started and seeing that and you say, &quot ; Hey, have you been to Taj Mahal? They have a nice rangoli.&quot ; (01:03:20) BRODY Yeah, so people started coming to see it. What time of year was this typically? (01:03:27) PRAMOD SHAH Diwali time means in October or early November. And middle of October to November. Yes. (01:03:35) BRODY So did I mean, obviously people who are celebrating Diwali are coming, but were there people, other people from the community that came to see? (01:03:45) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, yeah. All this, all this, on this community, some people must be knowing to the, the newspaper people. (01:03:53) BRODY OK, so you were covered in the newspaper? (01:03:54) PRAMOD SHAH They must be calling them, though. So they started... (01:03:58) BRODY So that, like the Dallas Morning News started coming to cover the rangoli as well? (01:04:05) PRAMOD SHAH And the radio people also, you know, news? Yes. (01:04:16) BRODY Were there any other cultural events, holidays like the rangoli that you were involved in and we&#039 ; ve talked about the Krishna ceremony, things like that, were there any other things like that that you could think of? (01:04:28) PRAMOD SHAH This is really not much because there are lots of South Indian people has, you know, and have religious days. Some religious days and all these things, but not much people they come to us to- for that. You know what, you why don&#039 ; t you get these or did you get these like that? So the very few we know, like all over India is famous like Ram_________it&#039 ; s all those things. (01:05:08) BRODY So you had- we started talking about the rangoli because you had all this extra space when you expanded to sixteen thousand square feet. What about what other things did you fill? You- I know you had the movies, you had the phone cards, you had the spices and the foods and the produce. Were there, were there other items that now that you had all this space- bigger items? (01:05:29) PRAMOD SHAH She just reminded me one very, very, very good items. You know the Ganesh, Ganesha? In Bombay everywhere? Yeah. They keep it for 15, 20 days. And then at the end of it, they put it in the river or sea, right? So that is Ganesh Chaturthi. So Ganesha, very big selling. We used to get it from India, directly- Ganesha Murti. From this size (Gestures a small, several inch size) to four feet high also. Big...And two feet high, all the temple used to get it, those. (01:06:09) BRODY The temples would buy them from you. (01:06:10) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, they get it and they have a big function of that. So lots of people go at, in that function. So temple also gets lots of money because wherever they go to temple, they put some money. (01:06:27) BRODY That&#039 ; s great, so. So this store really, there is no limit now. Like you&#039 ; ve got all sorts of- and it&#039 ; s not just groceries, it&#039 ; s not, it&#039 ; s not just movies, there&#039 ; s things. What were other things that Indians in Dallas needed from you? Were there, you know things for it, for travel, things for, you know, teaching their children? (01:06:55) PRAMOD SHAH The biggest advantage of my store to all the Indian people is because of my store is just doing so good, all of the sari store, travel agency, jewelry store, all those people come in the same shopping center. (01:07:15) BRODY Oh, so you were like an anchor? (01:07:17) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:07:18) BRODY So, so your neighbors must have been pretty happy you were there. (01:07:23) PRAMOD SHAH Two or three South Indian restaurants also came. Punjabi restaurants. All those things. (01:07:31) BRODY Right there in that in that plaza? (01:07:33) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:07:34) BRODY So, you know, somebody could come and spend the afternoon. They&#039 ; re going to get groceries and clothes and luggage. Did you sell luggage in the store? (01:07:47) PRAMOD SHAH No, no, no. There was a big sari store. They had the luggage and everything. Everything they had, they used to carry luggage. (01:07:53) BRODY So in your store, did you sell, at any point, did you sell clothing? (01:07:58) PRAMOD SHAH No, no, we started. The people started asking, &quot ; Why don&#039 ; t you give this?&quot ; So we started artificial jewelry. And, and bangles, the glass bangles and metal bangles in the arm. Do you know what they were in India that they used, right? All those things also we started. (01:08:18) BRODY Great. So this or that was so good for people to be able to have access to that sort of thing, the costume jewelry. (01:08:23) PRAMOD SHAH Bindi also. (01:08:23) BRODY Bindi&#039 ; s as well? Yes. Yes. (01:08:30) PRAMOD SHAH And Bindi also very nice, very beautiful. Matching to your (01:08:37) BRODY to your sari? (01:08:38) PRAMOD SHAH Clothes, saris, or... (01:08:40) BRODY Shoes? Did you sell shoes there? (01:08:43) PRAMOD SHAH For a while? Chappal, right? Yeah. Slippers, chappals, from Bata. (01:08:50) BRODY Bata shoes. (01:08:52) RENUKA SHAH Fancy chappals only. For ladies. (01:08:53) BRODY Just fancy ones. Yeah, but that was just for a short time. (01:08:58) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (01:09:00) BRODY I want to go back- to you mentioned that in 2001, you started that chaat corner. What was that? What did it look like and what prompted you to do that? (01:09:12) RENUKA SHAH First, let&#039 ; s correct the time- the year. I think we started in 1996. The Chaat Corner. (01:09:19) BRODY 96. Okay. Okay. And so what was it? (01:09:26) PRAMOD SHAH When we started first, you know, there was only items like, we&#039 ; re like, yeah, (Gestures) this big area. The pani puri. And it is it is like a chaat item, chaat items in, you know, in like Maharashtra or north. Not in the South mainly. You know, it&#039 ; s popular. But from, from Goa, it&#039 ; s all popular like this. Pani puri, bhel mix means, muramura, and all other items. Mix it and put the two, three varieties of chutneys in that, right? And the pav bhaji. Pav bhaji, parathas. And....we did. We started the juice also. Juice, juices. (01:10:37) BRODY What kind of juice? (01:10:39) PRAMOD SHAH Mango juice and then sugarcane juice. Yeah, that was the most selling. (01:10:48) BRODY Really sugarcane juice. (01:10:49) PRAMOD SHAH Sugarcane juice. (01:10:50) BRODY So was it open all the time when the store was open or just at meals? (01:10:56) PRAMOD SHAH All the time the store was open. (01:10:56) BRODY So was it pretty crowded? (01:10:59) PRAMOD SHAH Coconut. We used to get the coconut and then cut it nicely and give it with the straw. Coconut in the hand and they drink the real, fresh coconut water. (01:11:13) BRODY That&#039 ; s really nice. So was it pretty crowded, busy time? (01:11:20) PRAMOD SHAH Ooh. Saturday and Sunday. Very busy. Yeah, very busy. (01:11:28) BRODY Did families come or was it mostly... (01:11:30) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah. (01:11:32) BRODY The whole family would come and have juice and snacks and things like? Did so...But at this point, how large was your staff? Did you have just the two of you? (01:11:45) PRAMOD SHAH Particularly in that area? There are six seven people. (01:11:49) BRODY Working? (01:11:50) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:11:50) BRODY Okay. How did you find the staff for that? Was it difficult? (01:11:56) PRAMOD SHAH No, it was not difficult now because all this time there are lots of people there, you know, like their wife is not working anywhere. All right. So a lot of people used to... Punjabi people at that time used to come a lot. Yeah. And the Punjabis people, they are not mainly highly educated or something. So they started coming all sorts. So we get lots of yeah, yeah. (01:12:26) BRODY You get a lot of a mix. Just given where your location was, you know, during that time period, there were a lot of, you know, office buildings and things like that in the area. Were you crowded at lunchtime with people who were not just Indian? (01:12:43) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah...lunchtime. (01:12:43) BRODY Yeah. (01:12:45) PRAMOD SHAH That&#039 ; s when the American people also started. The lunch time. The Indian, yeah, he says, &quot ; Let&#039 ; s go and eat something or drink something to Taj Mahal.&quot ; So, you know, they come as a friend and yeah. (01:12:57) BRODY And they like it. (01:12:59) PRAMOD SHAH They like it. They like it. (01:13:02) BRODY That&#039 ; s, that&#039 ; s an interesting way that you were able to share Indian culture with a broader group. Did you, do you feel like and looking back at your store and your time in business, you know what, what role do you think that your business played in, I guess, educating people about India in Indian culture? (01:13:31) PRAMOD SHAH Huge. (01:13:32) BRODY Yes. Tell me more about your thoughts about that. (01:13:35) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, we actually in (Speaking Gujurati to Renuka Shah) When we started there, you know, one lady started a cooking classes in our store. (01:13:58) BRODY So you had cooking classes in the store? (01:13:59) PRAMOD SHAH We had- there was a space. (01:14:01) BRODY Because you had- once you had the more space. (01:14:03) PRAMOD SHAH The space where we used to do the rangoli, and when the rangoli is over. Nine, nine months...It&#039 ; s, you know. So one lady also started there. Yeah. So there also, American people used to come. (01:14:17) BRODY So they were- a lady came and she gave, briefly, Indian cooking lessons. (01:14:21) PRAMOD SHAH Cooking lessons. (01:14:22) BRODY Do you remember what she cooked? What types of things were being taught? (01:14:26) PRAMOD SHAH Mostly North Indian. North Indian foods, as is I told you know, not the, you know. It&#039 ; s a huge difference between the North Indian food and the South. (01:14:39) BRODY Yeah, yeah, there is. So in the time that that cooking class is going on, that piece of education was going on, you know, do you have any other thoughts about sort of the place that or the role that your store played in spreading Indian culture or sharing Indian culture? (01:14:58) PRAMOD SHAH There were lots of books. And. Oh, yes, I remember something. Sometimes, on weekend, Hare Krishna temple people used to come and sit outside the store and I provide them to table and chairs. And they used to talk to the people. (01:15:36) BRODY As they were coming through. (01:15:37) PRAMOD SHAH They were mainly because they says, &quot ; Okay, we have a this temple. So you can come to temple and then what we do in the temple.&quot ; And they also they used to give all these things too. Yes, very good. Yeah. And then we started, then slowly, slowly, what happened is we started selling the ayurvedic products. (01:16:05) BRODY So what type of products were those be? (01:16:08) PRAMOD SHAH Right? Yeah. Started from the ayurvedic. The...we don&#039 ; t write medicine. This is- we write on that the &quot ; herbal supplements.&quot ; So the ayurvedic products we used to get it from the India&#039 ; s, the biggest number one manufacturer in Hyderabad. So there- what is the name? Baidyanath is company name. Baidyanath. And the- who started the herbal supplements and the exports making the medicine. There in India, they say &quot ; medicine.&quot ; Making the medicines. Now they start. Yeah. They started exporting those also. (01:17:07) BRODY Ayurvedic products. (01:17:08) PRAMOD SHAH Ayurvedic products. &quot ; Ayurvedic Herbal supplement&quot ; is the American name. Yes. (01:17:12) BRODY Yes. So- that- were those popular sellers as well? Was that something that people... (01:17:18) PRAMOD SHAH Within India? Yes. Yes, yes. (01:17:20) BRODY And here in your store? (01:17:21) PRAMOD SHAH What we used to...started when we started. Then those Baidyanath people they offered us, right? That, &quot ; Can we send one ayurvedic guy doctor?&quot ; In India, there is a lots of ayurvedic doctors also. To your store, in the store and even you can so that you can do free of charge. Anybody has a problem. And with the regular medicine, it&#039 ; s not possible to cure it, what to do and what you know. So yeah, so we you know the free- the doctor. We started. About not long, long time, but at least at least 30, 30 days a year in the one year, 30 days he comes there and... (01:18:18) BRODY He just sat in the store and talked to people if they wanted to talk to him. (01:18:23) PRAMOD SHAH Correct. Correct. (01:18:24) BRODY That&#039 ; s interesting. You mentioned that there were books in the store. Like, would those be things that popular books from, you know, from India that were like the movies coming in at that time? And also, did you have any books that people who are raising their children here in the United Indian people who were raising their children here in the United States might want to help their kids learn something about India? (01:18:54) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. And those kind...Well, I think, yeah, we were, but not much, but the language and language books. (01:19:03) BRODY Yeah, tell me about that. (01:19:04) PRAMOD SHAH So many people, you know, the kids born here they will...It is not easy for them to learn their father, mother&#039 ; s language, like our son (?). So we have all of the languages&#039 ; book, from English to Hyderabad, from English to Keralian, and English to Gujarati, from English to Hindi, or English to Bengali. (01:19:30) BRODY You carried all of those? (01:19:31) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:19:33) BRODY Did you did you sell a lot of those? Were the families interested? (01:19:37) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Yeah. (01:19:38) BRODY Yeah. Yes. Did you get much feedback from the parents? Were they...What did they say? (01:19:44) PRAMOD SHAH Very, very happy. (01:19:46) BRODY Yeah. So in these... (01:19:48) PRAMOD SHAH Sometimes, they come, &quot ; OK, my kid has started speaking Gujurati.&quot ; (01:19:54) BRODY Great. Did you, that reminds me...I know that there are a lot of and you&#039 ; ve talked about the religious piece of it. We&#039 ; ve talked about now the language learning piece. Were there, other than the movies, were there sort of fun things, games that you sold in the store? (01:20:17) PRAMOD SHAH Very few. Yes. (01:20:17) BRODY Yeah. Tell me about the games. (01:20:18) PRAMOD SHAH There is a game called....(Speaks Gujurati to Renuka Shah) (01:20:28) RENUKA SHAH Snake and ladder? (01:20:29) PRAMOD SHAH Snake and ladder. Very few kind of (Speaking Gujurati to Renuka Shah) Oh, I keep forgetting all the names. (01:20:39) BRODY That&#039 ; s OK. (01:20:42) PRAMOD SHAH Like in Mahabharat, they, you know, they played it is that (Speaks Gujurati to Renuka Shah). (01:20:52) BRODY So what about... (01:20:54) PRAMOD SHAH Something. What is it called? I don&#039 ; t remember that. (01:20:58) BRODY That&#039 ; s OK. That&#039 ; s OK. Carrom? (01:21:02) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:21:02) BRODY Tell me about the carrom. (01:21:05) PRAMOD SHAH Carrom. Cricket. (01:21:06) BRODY You sold cricket supplies. (01:21:07) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Yeah. Yes. (01:21:10) BRODY Yeah. So tell me, tell me the things that...So let&#039 ; s start with cricket and we&#039 ; ll get to carrom. Tell me about...What, what were the supplies that you sold for cricket? (01:21:18) PRAMOD SHAH Cricket? Mainly? The items, cricket ball? Right? And cricket has up here (gestures) is the, right? Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And this it is called stumps. Right? So they put it and that guy comes and he has to throw before this right? He throws the ball. And they play the carrom bat. It is called &quot ; bat&quot ; to those, you know, played that carrom bat, stumps, cricket bat, and cricket stumps and balls. (01:21:57) BRODY Yes. So you sold all those things? (01:21:59) PRAMOD SHAH There are two kind of balls. One is a solid ball and one is a tennis ball. (01:22:05) BRODY So was there a cricket community in in Dallas at that time? And did... (01:22:11) PRAMOD SHAH Started. Yeah. (01:22:14) BRODY They&#039 ; re probably... (01:22:16) PRAMOD SHAH Gujurati people have started the cricket team. (01:22:18) BRODY Like a club or a team? (01:22:19) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Yes. (01:22:20) BRODY So they could buy their supplies and practice? (01:22:23) PRAMOD SHAH Practice. Yeah. (01:22:23) BRODY All right. So tell me about carrom. What is carrom? (01:22:28) PRAMOD SHAH Carrom. Very good game. And the carrom is you have it- carrom- right? (01:22:35) RENUKA SHAH It&#039 ; s a table game. (01:22:37) BRODY So we&#039 ; ve got a board. (01:22:38) PRAMOD SHAH This is four, four (Speaks in Gujurati to Renuka Shah) you know... (01:22:48) BRODY So you&#039 ; ve got- there&#039 ; s a board with (01:22:50) PRAMOD SHAH With the four holes (01:22:52) BRODY Four corners (01:22:54) PRAMOD SHAH All the four corners or the holes, and you have a striker which is about 15, almost 15 grams. And the coins are five grams. So you play with that striker and hit the coins, so that coin- supposed to go to the hole. (01:23:21) BRODY Into the corners? (01:23:21) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. (01:23:23) BRODY And you can play with two people, four people? (01:23:26) PRAMOD SHAH Two or for. (01:23:29) BRODY So you carried the boards and the strikers and the coins all in the store? (01:23:34) PRAMOD SHAH And the powder. (01:23:35) BRODY And the, oh the powder. (01:23:36) PRAMOD SHAH When it&#039 ; s not smooth much, you just have some. There&#039 ; s a special powder for it. (01:23:42) BRODY To make it slippery. (01:23:43) PRAMOD SHAH Little bit. Yeah. (01:23:44) BRODY So were these big sellers, the carrom boards and supplies? (01:23:49) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. Yes. So because in India, most of the people, everybody, not only all over India is they play carrom at home? So yes. (01:23:58) BRODY Was there a large community of carrom players? (01:24:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. But then we started a Carrom Association. (01:24:07) BRODY OK, tell me about that. (01:24:09) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. So we, we have tournament within Texas, and Texas and Dallas, we started in Dallas first, Dallas Carrom Association. You know, tournament. Cowboy Carrom Association. (01:24:25) BRODY Cowboy Carrom Association. How large was the association? (01:24:31) PRAMOD SHAH Oh, about 20, 25 members. (01:24:35) BRODY And you mentioned tournaments? You hosted tournaments? (01:24:38) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah...We started hosting tournaments. There is a good area of India Association office. So there was a big, bigger than this (Gestures). (01:24:50) BRODY Large enough. (01:24:50) PRAMOD SHAH Uh-Huh. So we, we used to put the six or seven carrom boards (01:24:56) BRODY And host a tournament? (01:24:57) PRAMOD SHAH A tournament. (01:24:59) BRODY Over like a weekend or something like that. (01:25:02) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Yes. (01:25:03) BRODY Did that grow? (01:25:04) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. That yeah. (01:25:06) BRODY Tell me about the growth in the Carrom Association and sort of all of your involvement in that. (01:25:13) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. So that helps lots of kids also because you know that, most of the people they come to, kids with them, &quot ; So, see, beta, you play it this way, this way, this.&quot ; And he used to play, so they can see- the kids also see. So they started, the small carrom board. We started selling the carrom boards, a small carrom boards for the kids. (01:25:39) BRODY Right, right. (01:25:41) PRAMOD SHAH So but yeah, but then it becomes very big and it becomes a &quot ; Texas Carrom.&quot ; So we, we hosted a carrom tournament. Texas Carrom Tournament. (01:25:56) BRODY Where did you host those? (01:25:57) PRAMOD SHAH The same place. This India Association office. (01:26:02) BRODY So still about six boards, or bigger, much bigger? (01:26:07) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (01:26:07) RENUKA SHAH Because people from Houston and any surrounding cities in Texas, they will be able to...They will come and participate here. (01:26:18) PRAMOD SHAH About 12, 14, depending on how many people are coming for to the tournament. (01:26:23) BRODY Did you charge a registration fee and things like that or just... (01:26:27) PRAMOD SHAH Yes. Little bit? Yes. (01:26:28) BRODY Yes. Was there a prize? (01:26:31) PRAMOD SHAH But the this doesn&#039 ; t...And it doesn&#039 ; t have to do with the Taj Mahal Imports. It goes to the Association? (01:26:38) BRODY Yes. Yes. So... (01:26:42) PRAMOD SHAH And prize. Yes. (01:26:43) BRODY What were the prizes? (01:26:44) PRAMOD SHAH Nice. Trophy. (01:26:46) BRODY Oh, that&#039 ; s nice. (01:26:47) PRAMOD SHAH With the name on it. Whoever wins, we put their name and everything. (01:26:53) BRODY How long did that go on? (01:26:57) PRAMOD SHAH About three days. (01:26:59) BRODY Or how many years? (01:27:00) PRAMOD SHAH Oh. How many years? Well. This. This Texas and Dallas... (01:27:10) RENUKA SHAH Local tournaments didn&#039 ; t last, you know, (01:27:13) PRAMOD SHAH Three, three, three, four years. Yeah. Then we entered in the national tournaments. (01:27:19) BRODY Oh you, you entered into the national tournaments. Now, do you mean that you, you all, the two of you entered into national tournaments? OK. (01:27:30) PRAMOD SHAH Host. We became. We began hosting the national tournament. (01:27:34) RENUKA SHAH We were players also. Participants. (01:27:36) BRODY Double duty. (01:27:38) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, so big. That is. There are lots of motel people here, and I have seen some motels and they were very big area, also empty. So we started in those motels who has empty area. Those places. Renting that. (01:27:53) BRODY How big when it, at its peak, how big were these tournaments? (01:27:58) PRAMOD SHAH Twenty-six to thirty carrom boards? (01:27:58) BRODY Wow, that&#039 ; s pretty impressive. And I bet it was difficult to organize that. (01:28:05) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. US Carrom Association also. So organization-wise, they do. But the initial thing, to put the carrom boards so nicely and each carrom board has to have the lights also all those things to manage all those things, we used to do? (01:28:25) BRODY You guys did that. So people came from all over? (01:28:30) PRAMOD SHAH Arranging the carrom boards, strikers, coins, everything. (01:28:34) BRODY So it&#039 ; s a lot of work. So the store was hosting it? (01:28:38) PRAMOD SHAH No, no, no. The store was giving the carrom boards. And all other items, like strikers and all these things, right? But when the International, no, National Carrom Tournament, all those people they used to come with their own striker. So we don&#039 ; t have to worry about the striker at that time. Only coins and carrom boards, lights, and stands, chairs, seating and all those things we manage. Locally, we rent. (01:29:12) BRODY So, you know, you were doing that... (01:29:14) PRAMOD SHAH Carrom board, we supply. Only the Taj Mahal give. (01:29:16) BRODY The Taj Mahal sponsored in the sense of providing the carrom boards and so on, and the two of you were just interested and members of the association. And so you were helping out in that way as well, so as well playing. (01:29:30) PRAMOD SHAH She&#039 ; s (Gestures toward Renuka Shah) a very good player, not me. Well, I am a very good managing guy. (01:29:35) BRODY Yeah. That&#039 ; s why you&#039 ; re a good team, it sounds like. (01:29:37) PRAMOD SHAH She used to represent Gujarat state. For all India Carrom Tournament. (01:29:43) BRODY That&#039 ; s incredible. That&#039 ; s incredible. (01:29:47) RENUKA SHAH (Inaudible) (01:29:49) BRODY So. When you expanded, how that, you know, how many more years did you stay open after the expansion? (01:30:05) PRAMOD SHAH Till 2016 end? (01:30:09) BRODY OK. OK, so when you look back at your time running this very large and successful Indian grocery store in this particular area, you know, what are what are some of the reflections that you have, what you know, what stands out to you as sort of your key experiences or key lessons that you learned during your years running the store? (01:30:39) PRAMOD SHAH Well, mainly. Most of the Indian people from India anywhere, at least they know us now. And we, we saw many places like India Association have a functions. We sponsored the &quot ; Kids Corner&quot ; all those kind of stuff. So everybody knows our, with our name also. Like they wherever we would go, &quot ; Hey Pramod, hey Pramod!&quot ; I don&#039 ; t know the guy who is saying &quot ; Hi Pramod,&quot ; the his name or anything, but this thing is, yeah. (01:31:21) RENUKA SHAH They still remember and miss us. Our store, our services. Our quality. (01:31:30) BRODY Yeah. Yeah, because you were a part of by being in charge of that store for so long and for supplying those things, all the things that people needed. You were a big part of people&#039 ; s lives for a long, long time. If you could go back and tell yourself when you were starting one thing, Like if you could go back to the 1986 and tell yourself something, knowing what you know now, what would you, what advice would you give yourself? (01:32:06) PRAMOD SHAH Well, I have given only one advice to myself, just getting retired now. (01:32:15) BRODY That is funny. (01:32:18) RENUKA SHAH Lot of... all this thirty, thirty-five years, we worked like....We&#039 ; ve never seen weekends almost unless, except when go to India for business work. And it&#039 ; s like a 24/7 work, even when you&#039 ; re at home in the middle of the night, even if a customer calls me, we would run for it. So we are always on the go. (01:32:41) BRODY Yeah, well, that&#039 ; s really nice customer service. (01:32:44) PRAMOD SHAH And we both like. So one thing is it&#039 ; s OK. Like if somebody is doing a good job and needs help. (01:32:53) BRODY You know, that&#039 ; s great. And when you think about the changes in the Indian community and the Asian community in Dallas over all the years that you were in business, what are you know, what do you think about that? How would, you know, what are your reflections or thoughts about the changes over the years in the Indian community? (01:33:19) PRAMOD SHAH Not much, because you know, everybody&#039 ; s becoming, you know, this busy, busy, busy, lots of South Indian people now. Right? And they are so busy. They&#039 ; re working from home or they go to the office. Those huge, you know, so it&#039 ; s good that the most south Indian, they come, they buy, they go. Right? And I, some, as I told you, some South Indian Association, we help them. Whenever they want, like there was a big, big, big, you know, about 6000 people, Hyderabad Association. All the Hyderabadi people all over the United States, they have a big function here in Dallas. OK, so they came in, they says &quot ; Pramod, you are the only one can supply us fresh coconut, you know?&quot ; We gave six thousand coconuts. (01:34:28) BRODY That&#039 ; s great. (01:34:30) PRAMOD SHAH And we went, also went there. They put the straw and give it to everybody. (01:34:38) BRODY That&#039 ; s nice. So do you feel like by the end of, you know, when you retired, what did you think that the...your store&#039 ; s place in this community was? (01:35:08) PRAMOD SHAH Well, now, we are retired about three years now. So it&#039 ; s... (01:35:13) RENUKA SHAH More than that. (01:35:15) PRAMOD SHAH 16 right? Oh yeah. Five years, so it&#039 ; s not much, but we you know, we have some close friend also and during these five years, some good friends. So we met now, and we, we go to India also. And lots of places too in the United States also here. (01:35:43) BRODY You know, that&#039 ; s great. Well, I&#039 ; m glad you&#039 ; re enjoying your retirement. That&#039 ; s fantastic. Well. Trying to think if there&#039 ; s anything we haven&#039 ; t talked about or need to go back and talked about. Did you ever run into any discrimination or sort of racism in your either interactions with the general public or as you were trying to set up your business? (01:36:15) PRAMOD SHAH No, no, no. All the local people. So very nice. All the officers in Customs department. Here, everywhere because I used to import, so I was in touch with all those people. So, no. (01:36:30) BRODY You didn&#039 ; t run into... (01:36:32) PRAMOD SHAH Even all the big, big wholesalers here, like I might buy almond, the local everywhere. Nice. Nice, nice people everywhere. Yes. (01:36:43) BRODY Yeah. How do you how did you try to go about setting up those relationships and sort of maintaining the relationships that you had with, you know, with the city leaders or people that you might interact with there or with, you know, the you mentioned the newspaper would come and interview or take pictures and things like that. You know, what was your philosophy or of, you know, how you presented yourself? (01:37:15) PRAMOD SHAH Tell you the truth after retirement? Yes. They&#039 ; re also not in touch with me, and I am also not doing. (01:37:21) BRODY Yeah. But during the time that you were there, what did you? I guess what I&#039 ; m asking is sort of did, did you have sort of a philosophy about how you wanted to present the store to the to the public? (01:37:35) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, that is, you know, as I told, when it&#039 ; s the rangoli time, this is went on and that it was a big problem in India in 2021. Big earthquake in Gujarat at the time also. You know, those people helped us so much. they used to even on the news also, there is a big earthquake in India. If you want to help anyone, you know, go to Taj Mahal Imports, they used to announce also, OK. (01:38:11) BRODY And so did you did fundraising? (01:38:13) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. (01:38:15) BRODY And then you were able to sort of connect with the associations and present whatever money that the people collected. That&#039 ; s nice. And so everyone. It sounds like what you&#039 ; re saying is that in the local community, you were seen as the sort of the leader for the Indian community. (01:38:35) PRAMOD SHAH All the local people also when they come and see. They put the money or check, right? So, I was to, to people say, OK, worse than that. &quot ; OK, sir, would you like to drink tea, Indian tea? You want to try? It&#039 ; s free.&quot ; We used to do that also. (01:38:56) BRODY It&#039 ; s very nice. (01:38:57) PRAMOD SHAH To them. Because they are so nice. (01:39:00) BRODY Yeah. So. That makes me think about, you know, nowadays, you know, we&#039 ; ve got the internet, we&#039 ; ve got TV and advertising, the radio, advertising, social media, all of that. But during the sort of peak of your store, none of that really was there. So was the store a place that people would put fliers and posters for events? Tell me more about that. (01:39:30) RENUKA SHAH Yes, we had set up a wall, actually a whole display wall where people could having their own, for example, having a baby and looking for a babysitter, looking for a job. Anything they want to advertise or anything they can take a slot from us and put it in that particular slot, their fliers, they come out and refill it. And that&#039 ; s how they would advertise themselves and we were helping them that way to get what they want. (01:40:04) PRAMOD SHAH And we have some small idea of what some wall. Whoever wants to do like, you&#039 ; re doing something. Suppose somebody is doing from home or their business. They can come and put the business card also there. (01:40:24) RENUKA SHAH Yeah, it was the whole display of fliers and cards. (01:40:27) PRAMOD SHAH Cards. (01:40:29) BRODY So it was kind of a community hub where people could get information. At that time, it&#039 ; s, you know, it&#039 ; s hard to imagine nowadays because we have so much information at our fingertips. But to find out something back then, you had to go look at something. So it sounds like your store was very helpful for people also in getting information about things that were happening, as well as seeking out babysitters or things like that. I don&#039 ; t, you know, I don&#039 ; t know if you knew, but were there people also who were starting their own little businesses, like especially like food, you know, making samosas or things like that, were those types of things going on during that time as well? Do you have any, any stories or any recollections? (01:41:20) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, we had one North Indian lady. She was making very good samosas, she told us and we tasted it, and it was nice. So she used to give us samosa- every week- supply? And when we opened a very big store, when we with the restaurant, she used come there and make it fresh there! (01:41:41) BRODY Oh, how nice. Yeah. So you had the best people? Yes, that&#039 ; s great. And then when one last thing, I was wondering if you could...You mentioned the Kite Festival in January, then also the rest of the year. What were we talking about Diwali in in October? But what were the other other festivals that that you&#039 ; re aware of that were Indian festivals that were going on? (01:42:12) RENUKA SHAH The one, particularly one of the main ones was that Ganesh Chaturthi where we used to get lots of Ganesh idols from small size to big ones. (01:42:22) PRAMOD SHAH And everybody buys, South Indian also. (01:42:26) RENUKA SHAH Big festival going on in the display and towards the end, it was like whole two weeks or more. (01:42:31) BRODY What time of year is that? (01:42:33) RENUKA SHAH It&#039 ; s mostly about around August also or early part of September, that&#039 ; s all. (01:42:42) BRODY And any other one? (01:42:49) RENUKA SHAH What else? (01:42:58) PRAMOD SHAH Krishna Jayanthi (Speaks in Gujurati) (01:43:05) BRODY Yeah, that&#039 ; s OK. Well, one more question that I just thought of. We&#039 ; ve talked about language and how India has so many different languages, and also how your store, your customers were from all different parts of India and, you know, working here in different capacities. How did you manage the fact that the same item might have different names to your various customers? Yeah. Tell me about what you did. Tell me about it. (01:43:39) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah. You know, different, different languages name like Hindi in what they call ,whatever the call in Hindi, same thing in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali. (01:43:55) BRODY So you kept a...You learned the words in all different languages? (01:43:59) PRAMOD SHAH No, no.I started asking people, when they come home, we call this thing been, you know, in Tamil Nadu, we call this name, this name. (01:44:09) BRODY So you kept a list. (01:44:11) RENUKA SHAH We kept a list of names. (01:44:13) BRODY And then how did you use that list? (01:44:19) PRAMOD SHAH We used to put it on some wall also and keeping in the office also. So if anybody were asking to some other, my employee or something, right? So the employee will take it, &quot ; OK, you look at this here.&quot ; (01:44:35) BRODY Right? So you- people- it helps people communicate and to ultimately buy the item that they, that they need, right? Well, is there anything else that I haven&#039 ; t asked you that that you&#039 ; d like to share any stories that you remember that we haven&#039 ; t talked about? (01:44:57) PRAMOD SHAH Oh, we forgot one thing. We have a very big sweet...Indian sweets. (01:45:03) BRODY Oh the sweets. Yeah, tell me about the sweets. Tell me about the Sweets Counter. (01:45:07) PRAMOD SHAH Yeah, there&#039 ; s a very big, very big manufacturer in New York. And he used to supply us sweets every week, every week. By air, by air. Fresh. (01:45:19) BRODY So tell me what? What types of suites were the most popular? (01:45:23) PRAMOD SHAH Oh, very different names in North and South. Very different names. (01:45:29) RENUKA SHAH But as far as the category, we can say Bengali sweets, North Indian sweets, Gujurati sweets, something like that? (01:45:39) BRODY And did they sell pretty reliably? Did people buy them? (01:45:42) PRAMOD SHAH Oh yeah, right? Yes. Yes. (01:45:44) BRODY For, for parties, for? (01:45:47) RENUKA SHAH Parties. Yeah. At home, birthdays. Everything. (01:45:51) BRODY So really, by the end... (01:45:52) RENUKA SHAH Weddings. (01:45:54) BRODY Weddings. Yes. Yeah. Did you did you have wedding supplies as well as special things for, you know, for Indian weddings? There&#039 ; s a lot of... (01:46:01) RENUKA SHAH Supplies. (01:46:02) PRAMOD SHAH Yes.Yes. (01:46:02) BRODY So what types of things were needed for the Indian weddings? (01:46:07) RENUKA SHAH Starting from any ceremony, any wedding ceremony, smaller ceremony to the end till the bride and groom gets married. All the supplies. We used to carry those, most of those things. (01:46:19) PRAMOD SHAH Then lots of Brahmin here, they do this all the wedding, yeah, (speaks Gujurati) ceremony. Wedding ceremony. This, they did do now, now, here everything. (01:46:34) BRODY They need all the supplies. (01:46:36) PRAMOD SHAH Yes, yes. And so many things. They bring it their own now and they charge for doing. (01:46:44) BRODY Yes. Yeah, most. So you were really central, it sounds like, to all the kind of key moments of your customers lives, right? From weddings to teaching their children to the various festivals and so on. So. Well, thank you very much for sharing your story. It&#039 ; s been really interesting to hear about and I appreciate your time. (01:47:08) RENUKA SHAH Last thing I would like to add is like all the customers, they were enjoying the festivities at Taj Mahal Imports premises rather than at home. They will, whenever the festivity comes, they will come to Taj Mahal to feel and experience that festivity and because that&#039 ; s how we were getting all the supplies. Besides that, there was a whole environment, you know, ambiance was like that and they were experiencing that, enjoying that festival there. (01:47:40) BRODY With other people. (01:47:42) RENUKA SHAH With other people. (01:47:44) PRAMOD SHAH In that the Ganesh Chaturthi. Big area being the Ganesh display. You know, you had a nice Ganesh display come with their kids and their kids do like this (Gestures). (01:47:57) BRODY They pray? (01:48:00) RENUKA SHAH And yeah, Diwali especially. (01:48:03) BRODY Especially. Did people dress up and come in? (01:48:08) RENUKA SHAH Yes, yes. (01:48:08) BRODY Yeah. And then they could have their snacks and sweets and everything. Well, again, thank you so much, and I really have appreciated learning more about your experiences and your story, and I&#039 ; m glad to be able to record this for the archive. (01:48:26) RENUKA SHAH Thank you for finding us and letting us share memories of our business. (01:48:34) BRODY Thank you. All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0




“Interview with Pramod Shah, December 6, 2021,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024,