Interview with Renuka Shah, December 9, 2021

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Renuka Shah, December 9, 2021

Subject

Asian Americans
Texas--History
Cooking, American
Cooking, Indian
Grocers, Asian American
Asian American grocers

Date

2021-12-09

Format

audio

Identifier

2021oh002_di_003

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Renuka Shah

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Renuka Shah, December 9, 2021 2021oh002_di_003 01:09:20 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 Grocers, Asian American Asian American grocers Renuka Shah Betsy Brody m4a oh_audio_dig_shah_renuka_20211209.m4a 1:|17(11)|41(9)|61(7)|82(8)|108(14)|125(13)|145(16)|171(14)|189(6)|209(11)|225(2)|243(2)|257(13)|276(13)|290(1)|305(12)|325(5)|348(3)|365(12)|385(6)|408(8)|432(10)|445(13)|463(4)|488(6)|501(4)|517(12)|548(12)|575(5)|592(8)|605(10)|622(4)|647(1)|669(9)|696(6)|716(11)|733(8)|743(11)|762(11)|780(15)|794(8)|809(11)|825(12)|848(7)|868(9)|880(7)|900(3)|915(10)|930(11)|951(2)|967(5)|987(3)|998(12)|1008(11)|1035(10)|1054(14)|1066(9)|1091(17)|1115(6)|1134(1)|1145(10)|1164(5)|1185(1)|1204(3)|1217(12)|1232(2)|1248(2)|1263(11)|1292(5) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/164466 Aviary audio 7 Introduction Asian American grocers ; Asian Americans ; Cooking, American ; Indian cooking ; Texas--History 39 Coming to Texas from India Asian grocery ; Baroda ; Dallas ; groceries ; Gujurat ; Houston ; India ; Indian community ; Indian grocery store ; New York ; Richardson ; Taj Mahal Imports ; Texas 308 Opening Taj Mahal Imports in Richardson advertising ; Asian grocery ; community hub ; Indian community ; Indian grocery store ; labor ; marketing ; Taj Mahal Imports ; White Pages 32.95475579890853, -96.73798630392501 17 491 Stocking the Taj Mahal Imports/ Relationship with neighboring businesses beans ; competition ; cooking ; customers ; groceries ; Indian grocery store ; meat ; neioghbors ; pickles ; rice ; spices ; sweets ; vegetarian 672 Adding products at customer request and expanding the store Asian grocery ; cooking ; customers ; expand ; expansion ; growth ; Indian groceries ; kitchen utensils ; products ; shamposs ; soaps ; vegetables 758 Transition to importing products directly from India business ; City of Richardson ; English ; expansion ; fax ; FDA ; growth ; health department ; health inspection ; import ; importing ; language ; manufacturers ; telephone ; warehouse ; wholesaler 1127 Advertising for the Taj Mahal Imports advertising ; customers ; flyers ; mailers ; markting ; telephone ; White Pages 1319 Impact of H1 visa holders on business and customer base bridge ; Britain ; British ; British products ; connect ; connections ; customers ; diversity ; England ; friendship ; H1 visa ; Indian food ; IT ; products 1479 Local interest in cooking Indian food beans ; biriyani ; cookbooks ; cooking class ; Indian food ; ingredients ; recipes ; rice ; spice ; vegetables ; vegetarian 1666 Expansion of Taj Mahal Imports ayurvedic ; British prodicts ; chaat ; expand ; expansion ; fast food ; growth ; Indian grocery store ; kitchen utensils ; products ; soft drinks ; sweets 1784 Atmosphere of the store/ Taj Mahal Imports as a community hub community center ; decorations ; festival ; festivas ; football ; Holi ; hub ; Indian festivals ; Kite Festival ; Taj Mahal Imports 2019 Diwali Festival and rangoli display 9/11 ; art ; bridge ; community ; Diwali ; educate ; education ; festivals ; Ganesha ; hub ; Kalpana Chawla ; rangoli ; sweets ; themes 2386 Taj Mahal Imports as a hub for the Indian community in Dallas ATM ; business ; customers ; flyers ; hub ; information ; kulfi ; networking wall ; phone cards ; Taj Mahal Imports ; VHS ; video rental ; videos 2596 Video rentals of popular Indian films VHS ; video rentals ; videos 2703 Growth of the Indian community in Dallas/ Establishment of the India Association connect ; connecting ; fundraising ; growth ; hub ; India Association ; Indian community ; information ; network ; religion 3124 Hosting tournaments for the US Carrom Association carrom ; tournaments ; US Carrom Association 3344 Organizing the Guinness Book of World Records &quot ; longest Carrom game&quot ; Carrom ; Guinness Book of World Records 3566 Religious, cultural, and language products carried for customers books ; dances ; festivals ; jewelry ; language ; religion ; wedding 3843 Reflections on changes in the landscape of Indian stores and products connection ; customer service ; hub ; Indian grocery stores ; products (00:00:07) Brody This is Betsy Brody. Today is December 9th, 2021. I am interviewing for the first time, Mrs. Renuka 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 Asian Dallas.&quot ; Hi, Mrs. Shah. How are you? (00:00:37) Renuka Shah I&#039 ; m doing fine, thank you, Betsy. (00:00:39) Brody To get started, why don&#039 ; t you just tell me where and when you were born? (00:00:44) Renuka Shah I was born in India, in the state called Gujarat in city Baroda. (00:00:53) Brody How did you get to Texas? (00:00:56) Renuka Shah I migrated. My sister sponsored me on immigration, and I migrated to New York, and then we had a kind of job already given to us in Houston, so we moved to Houston. (00:01:15) Brody What kind of work were you doing in Houston? (00:01:17) Renuka Shah I was doing the accounting work. (00:01:21) Brody About what year was that that you got to Houston? (00:01:25) Renuka Shah We came to Houston in 1981. (00:01:28) Brody You and your husband? (00:01:30) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:01:31) Brody And your family stayed in New York, your sister. (00:01:35) Renuka Shah Yes. They are still in New York. Yes, they will stay. (00:01:38) Brody Excellent. So here in Dallas, when you got to Dallas, you were- you and your husband started a grocery store. Can you tell me a little bit about the path that led you to that store? (00:01:55) Renuka Shah Yes, I was working in Houston. And so I quit my job and my husband got the offer to start the business in Dallas. And so we both moved here and I, initially, we started from ground up, so we both started settling the business, starting the business. And so I was with him for like the first year, and then I started going back to work for the bank in my accounting field. (00:02:28) Brody Had you ever done anything like a grocery store before? (00:02:31) Renuka Shah No, not really. Not before that. (00:02:35) Brody So what was the store called? (00:02:38) Renuka Shah Store was called Taj Mahal Imports. (00:02:41) Brody Great. And what type of store was it? (00:02:44) Renuka Shah It was mainly...It started with the Indian grocery store. For the first few years, and then we started adding the wide variety of stuff that Indians would need. (00:03:00) Brody At that time in Dallas, were there a lot of Indians? (00:03:04) Renuka Shah Yes. There were a lot of Indians. (00:03:05) Brody Yeah, tell me about what the community and what Dallas was like when you got here. And about what year was that? (00:03:11) Renuka Shah It was 1983? 83. We started the business, so there were lots of Indians who were in mainly motel businesses. Motel owners and the- there was another people. Some other people, they were in a working professional jobs and stuff. (00:03:37) Brody So were there any other Indian grocery stores or restaurants in Dallas at that time? (00:03:42) Renuka Shah Yes. There was only one small grocery store and one Indian restaurant. (00:03:50) Brody Great. Do you remember what the restaurant was called? (00:03:52) Renuka Shah It was called India Palace. And yeah, there was one small...Another restaurant there was called Kebab N Kurry. That was in Richardson, too. Yeah. (00:04:03) Brody Got it. So the store was in in Richardson. (00:04:06) Renuka Shah Oh yes. (00:04:06) Brody Yes. Where? Where was it located in Richardson? (00:04:10) Renuka Shah It was located at the southwest corner of Beltline and Highway 75. (00:04:17) Brody How did you decide on that location? (00:04:23) Renuka Shah Me, I mean, both of us and our partner who- from Houston, we all came here. He had done some research and some homework, and then we had a couple friends here in Dallas. So we kind of took their opinion also, and they said, &quot ; No, that would be the good location.&quot ; So that&#039 ; s how we could finalize. (00:04:44) Brody Great. So did it turn out to be a good location? Was it attractive to customers? Were you able to reach people? (00:04:51) Renuka Shah Yes, it was. It turned out to be a really good location. (00:04:54) Brody Yeah. Tell me about what it was like to start. (00:04:57) Renuka Shah So yeah, and the location was like very in and out, easy in and out to the highways and the other roads. Yeah. (00:05:04) Brody Was that? Yes, that&#039 ; s that makes a big difference. Tell me about the process of starting a grocery store at that time. (00:05:14) Renuka Shah It was like good old days. Like there was no cell phones, no GPS. Nothing. So it was like starting from ground up, buying anything, calling the construction people, or calling the prospective customers. Everything was just like with the landline and the maps. You would drive around there to buy something. It was really a good experience, of course, but a lot of hard work. (00:05:41) Brody Yes. So speaking of reaching customers, how did you let people know that you were starting this new store? (00:05:49) Renuka Shah We started using the White Pages and started calling the some of the common last names that we know that Indian would, Indians have. And so we started calling them first. And we gathered the addresses and some of them would say, and luckily somebody would say, &quot ; Oh, I&#039 ; m a president of this association, so I will give you more and more information for the people.&quot ; That&#039 ; s how we could get more and more people&#039 ; s addresses. (00:06:23) Brody And you mailed them? (00:06:25) Renuka Shah We mailed them the grand opening information where we are and all that. (00:06:29) Brody What do you remember about the day of the grand opening? What was it like for you? (00:06:34) Renuka Shah It was really, really exciting. Very nice. And we had announced the grand opening. What do you call the draw- the first few customers and then we had announced the prize also, right? Oh yeah. What was the prize like? I forgot. (00:06:52) Pramod Shah Few customers used to come there and says, &quot ; OK. We are opening a...we want to have a grand opening within a few days. So we have we are going to give TV, TV, right? (00:07:11) Renuka Shah It has one TV. I guess, we... (00:07:14) Pramod Shah Whoever wins and so many people give us their name, address everything. (00:07:18) Renuka Shah Yeah. (00:07:19) Pramod Shah Then we took out a name. (00:07:20) Renuka Shah So, whoever came, we were taking their, having them drop their name and addresses in the box, and then we would announce, we would draw a name. And that&#039 ; s how we gave out to the one TV and some other small prizes to the other people. (00:07:37) Brody And in return, you got the addresses of the customers. So do you remember? Did a lot of people come for the grand opening? (00:07:47) Renuka Shah Yes. Yes. A lot of people came. (00:07:49) Brody Yeah. Do you have a sense of how many people and? (00:07:53) Pramod Shah Grand opening... (00:07:54) Renuka Shah I really don&#039 ; t. But, the store would be busy all day. It was nice. (00:08:01) Pramod Shah Though, and the employee, very few at that time. We were not knowing how many employees we needed. (00:08:09) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:08:10) Brody So at the time that you opened the store, what were the things that you were stocking in the store? (00:08:19) Renuka Shah Mainly the Indian groceries, the spices and the beans and rice and oil and all that stuff. Besides that, some sweets and stuff. And then we had what else, some like cookies and crackers and all that Indian, all the Indian stuff. Pickles. Pickles. Yeah. So basically daily, any Indian lady would need to make their own complete meal. Yeah, all the ingredients of that. (00:08:54) Brody And your customers, how did they react to having an opportunity to purchase all those things that they would need to cook an Indian meal? (00:09:03) Renuka Shah They were very, very happy. Very, very happy because lot of stuff that was not available before then, also... (00:09:11) Pramod Shah (Inaudible) (00:09:13) Renuka Shah And then the quality and the service they noticed. They were really, really happy. (00:09:19) Brody That&#039 ; s great. What were your biggest sellers? Do you remember? (00:09:24) Renuka Shah During that time? What was the biggest seller? Grocery, definitely groceries. Yes. (00:09:32) Brody So your store itself, you had neighbors around the store, other types of shops? What type of relationship did you have with those neighbors in Richardson? (00:09:46) Renuka Shah Yes, we do. When we started, there was only as an Indian business, we were the only ones in the shopping center. But one mile away, the next exit, there were other Indian businesses like travel agency, restaurants, and sari store and stuff. Clothing store. They all then moved into our shopping center, so it was like a big hub for Indians. Jewelry store. Everything came. And, so I guess what was your other part of the question? (00:10:20) Brody What was your relationship with? (00:10:22) Renuka Shah Oh yeah, we were having a very good, healthy relationship. And before that, there was one grocery store and we would even...When we pick- somebody comes and ask us something in the beginning, and if we don&#039 ; t have something or if they are looking for something specific, where is the clothing store or something, we will point them and we will call that owner also, and like, &quot ; I&#039 ; m sending this customer to you.&quot ; And then to the other grocery store also, we were having a very healthy relationship. We would say, (00:10:56) Pramod Shah For meat, you know, we say &quot ; This is OK. We don&#039 ; t do that. Sorry. But, if you go there, they sell the meat.&quot ; (00:11:06) Brody Right? So your store did not sell meat? (00:11:08) Renuka Shah No, never. Yeah. (00:11:13) Brody So it sounds like you really were priding yourselves on customer service and providing what your customers needed, even if you didn&#039 ; t carry it in your store. Tell me about how you found out about other products that there was a demand for and what types of products those might have been? (00:11:36) Renuka Shah Sometimes customers would request us. And the other thing was like we were adding more as we had more and more space occupied, we were adding more stuff, right? (00:11:52) Brody What types of things were you adding gradually? (00:11:55) Renuka Shah Oh OK. Gradually, we were adding, for example, let&#039 ; s say in people are used to Indian soaps or shampoos and stuff. Or hair oils and stuff. So we started adding all that line. Then we also added after that, like in your kitchen utensils, because they would need for cooking and stuff. So this was the top of the line quality. We started importing that. And so they were very happy about that. And of course, vegetables, we started from the beginning, right? Fresh vegetables we were selling from the beginning, though. (00:12:33) Pramod Shah Yeah, yeah. (00:12:35) Brody Great. So these new products and the old products that you were carrying in the store...Walk me through the process of how you, their journey to get to the store. How did you source them? You know, what were your sort of your process of getting them supplied and their journey to your store? (00:12:57) Renuka Shah Oh, OK. As far as the products. We were initially, we were buying it from the wholesalers within United States and then eventually we started importing. We were like direct importers to retail in our stores because we had expanded by the time and created two more stores. Right? (00:13:22) Brody OK, really? Where were the other stores? (00:13:25) Renuka Shah One we started the first one, we started was in Denver, Colorado. OK? And then a couple years later, yes, we started in Atlanta, Georgia. (00:13:35) Brody Do those stores still exist? (00:13:37) Renuka Shah No. Everything is final. (00:13:39) Brody So when you were importing from directly from India, you know, again, like you said before, no cell phones, no anything. Tell me about how you handled that and what was the sort of nuts and bolts day to day of running a business like that? (00:13:57) Renuka Shah And after the store, we used to come at night at home. We had like a landline and then the wire and the fax machine and stuff. And so he talks to the Indian exporters and the manufacturers over the phone, writes everything manually, handwritten. Then we fax over to the manufacturer the order and the exporter. And then again, they start talking every day. This was the process like. And then because of that and the time difference between India and US, we were awake till like 2:00 a.m. Yeah. (00:14:39) Brody And India is such a large country with so many different languages. When you were making these phone calls, was business primarily conducted in English, then? (00:14:49) Renuka Shah Yes, but then depends on the which area and which people we are talking to. If we are talking to someone who is also speaking of our own mother language or something, we can always communicate better and explain them what we want and whatnot. So we would speak like that sometime and the rest of the time it was all national language, Hindi or English. Yeah. (00:15:16) Brody It&#039 ; s interesting. So, back to the manufacturers... So you would find out about products that either you thought were interesting or that were popular, or that your customers asked for and then, tell me how you sort of got them to the store. You called directly to the manufacturers? (00:15:39) Renuka Shah Yes. We did place the order to the manufacturers. (00:15:43) Pramod Shah And manufacturers. Usually they gave us the distributor name and telephone number and everything. (00:15:50) Renuka Shah So then they supply to the our exporters. And then they would ship it to us. And then we have to go through the process of like a health, FDA inspection and health department inspections, right? (00:16:09) Brody Yeah, that reminds me. Yes. Tell me more about that process. (00:16:13) Renuka Shah City Health Department. (00:16:14) Brody Yeah. From the new Customs aspect of it, of getting it into the country to the even the local level, the city, city health. Tell me all of the sort of interactions that you had as store owners with levels of government. (00:16:34) Renuka Shah Mostly. (00:16:35) Pramod Shah And then we put, before we started importing, we got one warehouse also, because we cannot do it, we cannot because it&#039 ; s a huge _________ . (00:16:46) Renuka Shah Because it comes in a huge container. Container load. And so we have to have a warehouse to first unload over there and then (00:16:56) Pramod Shah It has to go to the warehouse. Then my people working in the warehouse, they sort out, and then the FDA people also come to check. And they know that the warehouses is and they go there and do whatever they want to sampling to check it out. They take the samples from there. And then they come to the store. They give me the list also. These are the things we are taking for, you know, sample. (00:17:25) Brody Interesting. So and what about the City Health? (00:17:29) Pramod Shah City health comes in the store. (00:17:31) Renuka Shah They will come into the store only. (00:17:33) Pramod Shah And leave the warehouse. (00:17:33) Brody OK, not the warehouse. (00:17:35) Renuka Shah And they will come unannounced. So that&#039 ; s good for us because we have to be ready with, you know, health compliance? Everything, all the time. (00:17:46) Brody Then in a similar vein, the sort of process of opening this store. Tell me about the, you know, once you decided you wanted to be in Richardson, what was the, you know, the interaction in terms of what did you have to do to be able to open that store? (00:18:03) Renuka Shah Oh, OK. We had to first apply for the- actually register the name of the business (00:18:12) Pramod Shah And anybody has given that name, we don&#039 ; t... (00:18:15) Then they will not say, no, you cannot have that name. So name of the business and DBA, the corporation name also. And then be able once we load the store and stuff, then the health department comes, right? And of course, everybody is involved then. The building inspection and Fire Department, Business Department, building, local health. (00:18:41) Pramod Shah City of Richardson&#039 ; s health department people. (00:18:47) Brody OK, and let&#039 ; s now talk about advertising. What was the process? I know, at the beginning, you sought out the names from the White Pages and sent out mailers. Then you had the grand opening and gathered more names. Going forward, you know, you&#039 ; re the only Indian grocery store in town. What did you do to keep your name out there? (00:19:11) Pramod Shah The very first advertisement, you know, after we started the store, there&#039 ; s so many people, you know, they don&#039 ; t know. Again, she called everybody, you know who has, you know... (00:19:21) Renuka Shah Not received the sale flyer. But then after we started with this mailing, manual mailing list, that we had, the addresses we got from people and all. So we started mailing the flier like maybe quarterly or every month or some one page at least. (00:19:40) Pramod Shah They said, &quot ; We are not getting the, your sale paper.&quot ; (00:19:46) Renuka Shah OK, give us your address. So we started adding the addresses like that. (00:19:50) Pramod Shah We don&#039 ; t have to ask anyone. They, they come and say OK. Because, you know, all the friends talking in and out, &quot ; Oh we got it, we got it.&quot ; So we got a lot, a huge, huge. (00:20:02) Brody Mailing list. (00:20:05) Pramod Shah First five years, first four or five years, there were 6000 addresses. (00:20:12) Renuka Shah Or more. (00:20:14) Pramod Shah That covers, we didn&#039 ; t even know. That there are, besides the south area, Dallas south, up to Waco. Waco&#039 ; s too...has population at that time also Indian. So from Waco, to Amarillo. (00:20:35) Renuka Shah We had people coming from (00:20:37) Pramod Shah 300 mile radius, people used to come, because they have... (00:20:44) Renuka Shah They never had the store. (00:20:45) Pramod Shah Owner of the- there are motels in all of those stops. They need food. So they come too slowly, slowly. Lubbock, Amarillo, everywhere, people started coming. (00:20:59) Brody People were coming to your store from all over. (00:21:02) Pramod Shah And the same people must be driving 200 miles more and go to Houston. (00:21:08) Brody Yeah, but they got to the- I bet they were happy that they had a store here in Dallas and didn&#039 ; t have to drive as far. That&#039 ; s great. So you had a robust customer base from all over Texas, really? Were your customers mostly Indian at the beginning? (00:21:30) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:21:31) Brody Did that change over time? (00:21:34) Renuka Shah Yes, it changed over time. (00:21:37) Pramod Shah Go down, but how we realize is, OK, he must have moved to somewhere else or something, you know, yeah, but... (00:21:43) Renuka Shah No meaning besides Indians. Do did you get other customers? Did that change over the time? (00:21:50) Pramod Shah You say the that thing started from the year 1998. 98? (00:21:59) Renuka Shah Yeah. Before that, it was like very few other customers other than Indians. (00:22:03) Brody Yeah. Tell me about that. The, when you saw that change in 1998, what do you think was- what do you think led to that change? (00:22:14) Renuka Shah The major, major role that played is on the people who came from India on H1 visa to work on the- IT people, especially IT professionals. They came and they were working in this area, in these big companies around us. And so they were working with the other, their coworkers with like other ethnicity, other nationality, local or everybody else. So then they have they become friends and go out for lunch together or dinner together? So that&#039 ; s how they started bringing some, you know, their friends over to the store and they came to know about our products and some ready-to-eat stuff, like samosa and stuff. They loved it. Yeah. (00:23:05) Brody So you then that led to a whole different clientele. And then did that change sort of how you- the types of things that you carry, did that bring in some different, different lines? (00:23:20) Renuka Shah Oh yes. But mainly the British items, specially. Because some people, it started with the Indian asking for it, who moved from Britain to here. So with that request, we started importing some British stuff- cookies, candies, jams, all kind of stuff. So then eventually the local white British people who needed that grocery also...that stuff. So they came to know. So they started coming to buy those. (00:23:54) Brody And I&#039 ; m sure they were happy to see those products. (00:23:58) Renuka Shah Yes. They were very happy. (00:23:59) Brody So. So over the years, then, your business reached not just Indians, but also, you know, like you said, that British people who were living in this area and also, do you feel other communities came in as well? (00:24:22) Renuka Shah Local natives? Yes. (00:24:25) Pramod Shah The British community, they must be having a friend, also. Local friend. (00:24:30) Renuka Shah Local. Americans. (00:24:33) Pramod Shah You cannot get these candies, like these candies, anywhere in the United States. (00:24:39) Brody So not just the candy, though, but did you also find that there were people who were not Indian who were learning or trying to cook Indian food? (00:24:51) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:24:51) Brody Tell me about that. (00:24:53) Renuka Shah Yeah. (00:24:54) Pramod Shah We have lots of books also. Cooking books. (00:25:00) Renuka Shah So yeah, they, they started in. They got interested into that, starting to cook something and learn how to cook Indian vegetarian stuff. (00:25:11) Brody Yes. I&#039 ; m glad that you brought that up. So, you know, during this time period there, you know, people started to, you know, Americans and, you know, just people in general started to be more interested in cooking different foods from different parts of the world and also different, you know, more healthy approaches to food. You know, what impact did you see of those types of trends on the customers in your store? (00:25:45) Renuka Shah The people they used to go to...there were...when they go online classes, online recipes, they got sometimes printed or something, or they go to some classes? That time I think somebody was running a class, but there was a very small group. But that&#039 ; s how they found out that they can get the ingredients here in this store, so they will come with that list and the recipe. And so I would personally walk with them and then show them, &quot ; Hey, you would need this for like mustard seeds, for example, this oil, this spice for this, this kind of vegetables are needed in this.&quot ; And so that&#039 ; s how I would show them everything and they will try to make it at home. Yeah. (00:26:31) Brody In your store, did you ever have cooking classes? (00:26:34) Renuka Shah Yes, we did. Yeah. (00:26:35) Brody Yeah, tell me about that. (00:26:38) Renuka Shah Then there was a lady who did this cooking class right in our store. We provided them the area. A little corner, too, for the class and for the week...In the weekend, though. And we announced actually that there will be a cooking class for whoever is interested in learning Indian cooking. So there were other people coming other than Indians, more coming. (00:27:06) Brody What types of things did they cook in that class? (00:27:10) Renuka Shah It was like mainly of vegetables and rice and stuff... (00:27:16) Pramod Shah Biriyani. (00:27:18) Renuka Shah Biryani and vegetables. And then the chapati, the homemade bread, like a tortilla, (00:27:26) Pramod Shah then sprouted... (00:27:30) Renuka Shah Sprout beans. (00:27:31) Pramod Shah Sprout, make mung beans, and sprout these, all this kind of stuff also. (00:27:35) Brody Types of things. And they so in the store, you had enough room for a cooking class, as well as the weekend traffic for shopping. (00:27:45) Renuka Shah Yeah. Yes. (00:27:46) Brody How big was the store? (00:27:48) Renuka Shah Big? I think it was about... (00:27:51) Pramod Shah Three thousand. (00:27:52) Renuka Shah In the very beginning. When we started, it was like 3000 square feet. And then we kept on adding. We kept on adding the store size to like the next door right there. It was another 3000. So 6000 right there in the same spot. And then we moved out in 1996 to the open area in the same shopping center. And it was like about 10000 square feet. (00:28:20) Pramod Shah And between... (00:28:21) Renuka Shah Eight thousand square feet. And then in a couple of years, we got another 8000 very next door. So by the time we had 16000 square feet. (00:28:31) Brody That is a very large grocery store, isn&#039 ; t it? (00:28:34) Renuka Shah Yes. It was. Yeah, it was the biggest one during that time. (00:28:37) Brody The biggest Indian grocery store in the state? (00:28:41) Renuka Shah In the, in US I would say. (00:28:43) Brody In the US? (00:28:44) Renuka Shah With a wide variety of the- it was like a whole departmental store for Indians. (00:28:50) Brody Tell me about the different departments that ultimately, by the time you were at the largest, what were the, the all the departments that you had in that store? (00:28:59) Renuka Shah We had, of course, the groceries. Then we had this British stuff. We had kitchen utensils. (00:29:08) Pramod Shah Fast food. (00:29:09) Renuka Shah We had fast food corner and then we had sweet, candies corner, sweets. We had ayurvedic products, which is a herbal supplements, that was a wide range of products we used to carry. But that also. (00:29:30) Pramod Shah Even soft drink... (00:29:31) Renuka Shah And then soft drinks from India and lots of frozen stuff, ready to eat, or you can cook. Everything was there. (00:29:45) Brody So on a typical weekend at your store, what was the environment like at the peak of the business? What did it feel like to you on a weekend? (00:29:59) Renuka Shah Well, it was like very, very crowded. But at the same time, people who came in the store, they were enjoying more because they used to meet people on the floor right there, so they will start talking to each other and mingle around and still do the shopping and enjoy the food and everything. So it was really a nice thing for them. And so they felt it like home, you know. Even during the festivities, as the festivals comes, they would come to enjoy the festival, it&#039 ; s like to go to the store rather than staying at home. (00:30:33) Brody Tell me about the festivals. What types of things did you involve yourselves in with the store, in terms of festivals? (00:30:42) Renuka Shah Oh, we would display the products and decorate stuff, decorate a little bit in the store also. According to the festival, starting from whichever month. In January, then there&#039 ; s one big festival, then comes later, like in March, there is another festival. So all the Indian festivals, we used to carry all the products for that and then we used to decorate. So it was like a whole new ambiance every time. (00:31:15) Brody Yeah. Did you do that yourself? (00:31:18) Renuka Shah All of us together. Yeah. (00:31:20) Brody So starting in January, what, for example, what festival is in January and what types of products would you have carried for that? (00:31:31) Renuka Shah January. We have, in the middle of January, there&#039 ; s a Kite Festival. Traditionally it&#039 ; s two days 14th and 15th, but here they celebrate it over the weekend or, looking at the weather, you know how? So normally they celebrate in March or so, right? When there&#039 ; s a good weather out there. So we carry those kites, kites and the threads. There&#039 ; s a special thread to fly the kite. So we used to carry all that. (00:32:02) Brody Right. What were, are there some other examples of other festivals that you had big, you know, big events for? (00:32:11) Renuka Shah Holi. (00:32:12) Pramod Shah Festival or when there is a football tournament here. (00:32:19) Renuka Shah Talking about festivals (00:32:20) Pramod Shah University football tournament. (00:32:22) Renuka Shah We&#039 ; re talking about festivals right now. (00:32:26) Pramod Shah University football tournaments also help us so much because when there tournament between Oklahoma and in Dallas, so that is (inaudible) (00:32:38) Brody The Texas- OU weekend? (00:32:39) Pramod Shah Yeah, yeah, yeah. So many people, Indian people, comes to, you know, from Oklahoma also. So they, when going back, they take so much of grocery, for three months, four months. (00:32:53) Brody Well, that&#039 ; s interesting. That is interesting. So other Indian festivals that you... (00:33:03) Renuka Shah Lots of them. Some of the main ones are like in sometime in March. It falls in March. It&#039 ; s called Holi. It&#039 ; s like a festival of colors, I would say. It&#039 ; s like people enjoy using colored sand, you know, and the water and they celebrate that, right? There&#039 ; s a whole story behind that, but that&#039 ; s a Holi. It&#039 ; s called Holi. (00:33:32) Brody And so you would carry the sand? (00:33:35) Renuka Shah All the colors everything. (00:33:36) Pramod Shah All the Holi colors. Yes, yeah. (00:33:39) Brody And then, the what was the biggest event that you would host at the store in terms of festivals? (00:33:47) Renuka Shah Biggest would be the Diwali. (00:33:51) Brody Yes. Tell me about that. (00:33:52) Renuka Shah Oh, that would be like during that time, we used to import fresh sweets from India. Specialty sweets that different regions of the, of India, people from different regions would be liking to eat or something because they would be missing that. So we used to import that and then used import the rangoli, which is again colored sand. (00:34:19) Pramod Shah The other thing is it was in the very beginning. And then after that they change it of, you know, from the flower, you know, it&#039 ; s like (speaks in Gujurati to Renuka Shah) (00:34:35) Renuka Shah (Inaudible) (00:34:36) Pramod Shah (Speaks in Gujurati). (00:34:37) Renuka Shah Yeah. But. (00:34:37) Pramod Shah In the beginning, yes. (00:34:39) Renuka Shah First describe this. (00:34:41) Brody What is the rangoli? (00:34:42) Renuka Shah Rangoli. Rangoli is the....by using the, you make different designs or different artwork using the colored sand. (00:34:53) Brody How big would these be? (00:34:55) Renuka Shah It depends. I mean, people, when they do at home it will be according to what&#039 ; s it, whatever size they want to do. But in our store, when we started this trend was the it was a huge, big- maybe I would say, 30 feet by 20, 15 or so. (00:35:14) Brody That&#039 ; s very big. (00:35:15) Pramod Shah Yeah. It was huge. (00:35:16) Brody How long would it take to set that up? (00:35:20) Renuka Shah The initially, was like unexpectedly, we got actually, not unexpectedly, we had very short time left before the Diwali comes. So it was like a few days left. So we called all the friends. So we worked like two nights, late night until late nights, maybe 15, 20 people together. That&#039 ; s how we could finish it. Otherwise it would have taken longer. (00:35:44) Brody Do you have to be artistic to have the plan? Was there somebody that was sort of in charge of designing it? (00:35:52) Renuka Shah Yes. Initially, we did. Later on when we really kept this trend, doing it every year. We used to have a theme. On which theme we want to do this year. So that part we would decide. And then we had a couple local artist friends. They will say, &quot ; Yeah, we would. We wouldn&#039 ; t mind coming and helping you guys out.&quot ; So once we decide on the theme, we would tell those friends and out of that. But a couple of them were like, good in drawing and stuff, so they would come out and do the outline. And then we all jointly fill in the colors and everything. (00:36:30) Brody What were some? I&#039 ; m sorry. (00:36:32) Pramod Shah She guide us also- in what color to go here? Like that. So we mix the color and then we tried to do it. And then, start. (00:36:42) Brody What were some examples of themes that you used over the years? (00:36:47) Renuka Shah Like we started with like this Diwali- and then we started the first one, it was, the theme was that the Diwali theme. Like a lady, would go to the temple with the light, light and then all the prayer stuff. The second, from second year, it was different every year we would take...second year it was like Ganesha, which is a very common thing for Indians. Common idol and lord for everybody. So we used that, Ganesha. (00:37:24) Pramod Shah In India. They have a Ganesh Chaturthi. During the Ganesh Chaturthi, they have a big...(speaks Gujurati) (00:37:39) Renuka Shah Yeah, the procession. Yeah, yeah. And then one time, when 9/11 happened, we had the theme like, know, &quot ; Salute to the Heroes&quot ; all the heroes- like a firefighter, a dog even, a policeman, and all that. Nurses and doctors. During that time, whoever had, during that time in New York... (00:38:09) Brody and so you depicted that in the.. (00:38:10) Renuka Shah We yeah, the depicted the whole thing. Yeah. (00:38:12) Brody In the rangoli. Yeah, saluting those heroes. Yeah. (00:38:16) Pramod Shah You know, one time, an Indian lady astronaut, when she died... (00:38:22) Renuka Shah And the...yeah....one time we did that, the lady who went, was an astronaut and she died after that. Called...Her name was Kalpana Chawla. So we to had the theme on that- on her, yeah, tribute to her. One time it was a &quot ; Peace on Earth.&quot ; So we had all the countries&#039 ; people depicted on that and then holding their hands and all that stuff. (00:38:55) Pramod Shah In the attic. (00:38:58) Renuka Shah 911, no. That&#039 ; s what I told her first. (00:39:02) Brody So this is very big and all of these wonderful themes. Did it draw lots of people into the store to see it? (00:39:11) Renuka Shah Lots of them. They were looking forward. Then the habit became to the customers was like, you know what, &quot ; When are you finishing the rangoli? When can we come? When can we come to see?&quot ; So it was really excitement for them. Yeah, to come and view that. (00:39:27) Brody Did people bring their families, bring their children? (00:39:30) Renuka Shah The children. And the children would bring their like next door neighbors&#039 ; children, their friends and stuff, no matter they are white Americans or whoever they are or, you know, Asian or whoever they&#039 ; ll all come and see. (00:39:46) Brody That&#039 ; s really that&#039 ; s a nice piece of education that they could get from coming to the store with their friends. That&#039 ; s great. Did you see other aspects of the people who are coming to your store, your customers, what were some other ways that you mentioned that there- it was a hub and people enjoyed coming to the store and being in there. Were there other things that, that you were selling or doing that provided that sort of sense of community or a taste of home for, for those customers? (00:40:23) Renuka Shah Yes. At that time was there was no like, for example, for any information, if somebody is a newcomer in the town or something. So we had people, we, who can...Local people who want, whoever wants to advertise their own thing or their....They need something like any...For example, they require a cook or babysitter or something. They will put their flyers there and if they are looking for an employee or something, there is a help wanted flyers and stuff. Some business people, they will put their business cards. We would allow everybody to put that on that wall. So it was like our network wall, networking wall. So people would come in and get that info from there. Yeah. (00:41:10) Brody Did you have an ATM or phone, phone cards, videos, things like that as well? (00:41:19) Renuka Shah Yes. We didn&#039 ; t have ATM. Though, we had people telling us to keep it. And there were people, businesses who were coming in to keep it, but we didn&#039 ; t keep it. And we had videos and that time was like those VHS videos and Indian film videos. And then we had what else? (00:41:46) Brody The phone cards? (00:41:47) Renuka Shah Phone cards, yes, we did have phone cards. Because in those days to talk to India or internationally, London or wherever, it was like very expensive to call, pick up the landline and call directly will be very expensive. So it was... (00:42:03) Pramod Shah Customers there. They told us about this, they know how to make ice cream and cake and eat it. (Speaks Gujurati to Renuka Shah.) (00:42:16) Renuka Shah Kulfi. And that&#039 ; s that goes into the product spot, you know? Hmm. So, yeah, we had phone cards, prepaid phone cards and the videos. (00:42:26) Brody Yeah. So the phone cards- tell me about... You, you were starting to say that it was expensive to just pick up a phone, call India or call overseas. How did these phone cards work? What was the sort of the business model there for that? (00:42:45) Renuka Shah As far as the phone cards? It would be like starting from different denomination phone cards, $5, $10, you know, and then they had certain, certain minutes that you get out of that $5 phone card, and that&#039 ; s how people would buy and use it. (00:43:04) Brody And it would be much less expensive than just calling from home? (00:43:07) Renuka Shah Less expensive. (00:43:09) Brody And that would allow them to be able to call overseas, and talk to their families. Now back to the videos. So these would be- were they popular films that were currently in India, popular in India? (00:43:24) Renuka Shah Yes, we used to carry the latest popular, latest films and we used to carry all the old time favorite films also. And what else? And the audio? Audio cassettes also. (00:43:41) Brody Oh, really? (00:43:43) Renuka Shah Yes, it&#039 ; s a... (00:43:44) Brody Popular music. And from a customer perspective, so what did that feel like for a customer? If they wanted to see a certain movie, they would come to the store? And what would what would a customer do to be able to access it? (00:43:58) Renuka Shah We had displayed it in the racks on the wall and like alphabetically, and then they would come out and sometimes they would say, oh, and they will name the latest movie or something. If they are looking for that. And mostly, we get, we used to get those also. So we would pick out, take out, and give it to them. And it was like all manual system to rent out. So we would take down their name and number and everything. And then there was a certain set rate how they would rent. (00:44:32) Brody Depending on the popularity of the movie. (00:44:35) Renuka Shah Yes. Yes. Yeah. (00:44:37) Brody The price would be different. And so again, was this like in a computer or, you know, did you keep track of it in a... (00:44:45) Renuka Shah In a notebook. All manual. (00:44:48) Brody So and it did it work out pretty well? Was that a good system? (00:44:53) Renuka Shah It worked out really well because everybody&#039 ; s honest. It&#039 ; s just hardly you lose any movie. Yeah. So. (00:45:01) Brody That&#039 ; s great. So in the larger sort of growth of the Indian American community in Dallas, what role did your store play and what interactions did you all have with sort of the, you know, from the time that you got here to, you know, when the store closed, we saw a huge growth in this area in the Indian community. What were your points of interaction? (00:45:31) Renuka Shah At that time? Actually, in front of our eyes, actually, the different associations started, actually their own association. For example, India Association. That was there, but in a very, very small scale. And then so it was a big thing for them also, to get to know people and get them involved in the Indian, India Association. Then different religious organizations started. Separate, depending on their own religion. And so they grew, they started. They found a lot of things from us. Right? Lot of information from us. (00:46:16) Brody So did you play a role in connecting people with each other? (00:46:22) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:46:24) Brody How so? (00:46:24) Renuka Shah In different aspects, different, different, ways, right? In connecting people. (00:46:33) Pramod Shah (Speaks Gujurati to Renuka Shah) (00:46:41) Renuka Shah Connecting people- meaning like different- (00:46:44) Brody I guess it sounds like- because your store was so big and it was the place where people came together. And, you know, like you mentioned, the networking wall and things like that. I was wondering if, as these associations are forming, sometimes maybe you knew somebody was doing something that somebody else might be interested in. I wondered if you connected those types of people with each other. (00:47:11) Renuka Shah Oh yes. As far as the information? It was the whole information place for people at Taj Mahal. Yeah, even newcomers or this networking. Somebody comes in ask, &quot ; Hey, who can I get the insurance from?&quot ; We would give them the names of people who are...Who has started that business or something. And so they were like, yeah, local networking. (00:47:40) Brody And yes. And so the India Association became quite large in this area. And tell me about your observations of that and your experience of the India Association. (00:47:52) Renuka Shah Observations. They even, they even opened an office, right at Spring Valley, very, very close to us. And they started getting more and more membership and they did different activities where we supported a lot also. As well as by physically helping with our staff or something or by the display of certain items if they want to borrow some things, if they need any physical help from us or any other way, we were helping them. (00:48:28) Brody For their different events? (00:48:29) Renuka Shah Even in different events like fundraising or something. Anything happens, they would, we would tell them to come out and put a box there so that we can raise the funds at our, in our premises also. Yeah. (00:48:44) Brody For example, what types of things would their fundraising be for? (00:48:49) Renuka Shah Oh, in it would be any, I would say calamities like within US, like 9/11, for example. And there was a later, there was one big earthquake in India. (00:49:04) Pramod Shah (Inaudible) and West Bengal side (00:49:08) Renuka Shah West Bengal. (00:49:09) Pramod Shah Yeah. (Inaudible). (00:49:11) Renuka Shah Yeah. So we used to put the box there and collect the funds and India Association people would take care of that. (00:49:22) Brody Yeah, that&#039 ; s great. Speaking of 9/11, I know some people have mentioned and it&#039 ; s been documented that there was, in the wake of 9/11, you know, some racism directed at people of color, particularly people from, you know, the Middle East or even India. Did you have any experiences like that? (00:49:48) Renuka Shah No, not really. No. We didn&#039 ; t have any discrimination or hate crime or anything like that. (00:49:54) Brody No, that&#039 ; s good. That&#039 ; s fortunate. It sounds like the, what you&#039 ; re saying is that your store was a really central to the connections between Indian Americans and people, you know, who were settled here from India or even England. What- did you have any issues with sort of connecting with different communities? (00:50:30) Renuka Shah Connecting with different communities...Only the- nothing except the language barrier, probably. (00:50:39) Brody Right. (00:50:44) Renuka Shah Different communities of India? Any communities. Yeah, we didn&#039 ; t have any specific connecting... (00:50:55) Pramod Shah Mexico only. They were working for us. (00:50:57) Renuka Shah Mexican people. (00:51:01) Pramod Shah And sometimes, you know, there&#039 ; s an extra food, yes, and Mexican people has not taken their break, lunch. We offer this. &quot ; OK, yeah, yeah, sure.&quot ; But it&#039 ; s not much. Not really. (00:51:15) Brody That&#039 ; s interesting. So. And yeah, speaking of the staff, right? Were you primarily staffed by Indian people? (00:51:26) Renuka Shah Indians. Definitely. Because they have to know the products also, right? (00:51:30) Brody Oh, excuse me. (00:51:33) Renuka Shah Yes, so use Indian people. And then we also had some people in the warehouse, but they not necessarily have to have knowledge of every single thing? But some hard work or something, then we can have anybody, you know? (00:51:51) Brody And where was the warehouse? (00:51:53) Renuka Shah It was also in Richardson around the Texas Instruments. Around that area? Yeah. (00:52:04) Brody So you mentioned the India Association and they&#039 ; re there events and things like that. I know also that you all were involved with the Carrom Association. Tell me about your background with carrom, the game and tell me what carrom is. (00:52:21) Renuka Shah Excuse me. Carrom is like a table game, and it&#039 ; s played by either two players or four players. And it&#039 ; s like using, it&#039 ; s pretty much like using the angles and stuff like, like a pool table, but this is like a family game. Very interesting. And I used to play in India where I used to work- in a bank- for a very short, short time, like a halftime, you know, lunchtime and on. But then I guess I was playing good or whatever it was, somebody noticed and they pulled me in for the tournaments, and that&#039 ; s how I ended up playing the national tournaments in India. And after we came back and came to here in US, it was a whole long pause because we didn&#039 ; t have time to think about even other stuff. So we were in business, and while we were in business, we were carrying carrom boards also to sell. And later we found out that there was an association here also- US Carrom Association. So they even told us about the tournament to come over and represent. So that&#039 ; s how we started really actively, we took part in everything, and we were helping wholeheartedly everything with the supplies, including the supplies and the physical help to US Carrom Association. (00:54:01) Brody So did you host a tournament? (00:54:03) Renuka Shah Oh yes. In Dallas, we hosted about three times national tournaments. Yeah. (00:54:10) Pramod Shah And two, two times. (00:54:13) Renuka Shah Out of that, out of the three times, I think it was one or two times, World Cup. So other country people, players used to come also. (00:54:23) Brody Wow. So an international tournament here in Dallas that you helped to host? (00:54:28) Renuka Shah Yes. (00:54:29) Brody What? What did that entail? Hosting the tournament? What did you need to do? (00:54:32) Renuka Shah Oh, it&#039 ; s a lot of work, a lot and a lot of work. It was, besides the supplies, it&#039 ; s like you have to rent a place where you can have the space to display all those boards. That&#039 ; s required depending on the entries . (00:54:52) Pramod Shah And everybody, stayed. (00:54:53) Renuka Shah Everybody stays in that motel. So for two to three days. And so it was a big thing. And then you have to think about breakfast, lunch, dinner during that tournament, those tournament days. And a lot of work, a lot of, lot of work. (00:55:12) Brody And. You ended up having prizes and so on? (00:55:20) Pramod Shah US Carrom Association. (00:55:22) Brody They took care of that. (00:55:23) Pramod Shah Because they take that. And they take some money, actually. (00:55:28) Renuka Shah Yeah, whoever comes to play, they have to have some entry fees and to pay some entry fees to US Carrom Association so that- with that money- US Carrom Association used to buy the trophies. (00:55:44) Brody And I understand also that you had an interaction with the Guinness Organization as well. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? (00:55:56) Renuka Shah Yes. Yeah, there were, there was a guy who, a player. I would not say &quot ; guy,&quot ; an elderly person, player, very good player. All time. He had an ambition to do this: set the record of carrom in the Guinness book. (00:56:15) Pramod Shah (Inaudible) (00:56:18) Renuka Shah Everybody can see that. So he found us as the best people who can really organize this kind of, at this level. It&#039 ; s a lot of work for, to set that Guinness Book Record. So he found us, and he said, &quot ; Only you can do. And that, also, you have to do in Dallas. Nobody else will do here in north or something.&quot ; So we said, &quot ; OK, we can try.&quot ; And then they applied for the, this event and we got the whole, big bible of guidelines and stuff. So it was a big, big job to do that. But any smallest mistake would not have approved it. So we had to do everything really perfect and thank God we could do it. (00:57:09) Pramod Shah And according to Guinness Book of World Records, each and every seconds has to be recorded (00:57:16) Renuka Shah Video recorded. Every second of it. (00:57:20) Brody How long did it last? (00:57:21) Renuka Shah This lasted for about 33 hours. (00:57:27) Brody So you recorded the entire thing? (00:57:28) Renuka Shah The entire event. Yes. (00:57:30) Pramod Shah And as for their law, there are so many things that there are... Maybe some photographs also then some pictures of, you know. What was that? (Speaks Gujurati) Oh my God. (00:57:50) Renuka Shah Gujurati. (00:57:51) Pramod Shah So what our people has... (00:57:54) Renuka Shah There has to be- there were the guidelines was like there has to be the witnesses all the time. There has to be a nurse all the time. There has to be a doctor all the time there. And there has to be an audience all the time. Even overnight. So we had to manage all that. And then when the audience is there, we had to sell some, some snacks or some refreshments. So everything I mean together was a big, big project. (00:58:22) Brody And you organized this? (00:58:23) Renuka Shah Organized? Yes. (00:58:25) Brody So there were the- record is four people for thirty three hours? (00:58:31) Renuka Shah Thirty two hours and seventy- and forty five minutes. Thirty two hours and 45 minutes, I think. (00:58:37) Brody How did you decide on the four people? (00:58:41) Renuka Shah The definitely the person who really had and... (00:58:46) Pramod Shah Who started this. (00:58:47) Renuka Shah Who wanted to do this and him and him (Gestures to Pramod Shah), and then they were supposed to pick two more players. So there was another person from Dallas and then, that we knew as a player, because we used to go for the tournaments together. And there was the other person from Ohio who initiated this, thought about this thing. He had another friend there up in north, so he picked him. So that&#039 ; s how four people... (00:59:15) Brody The four people. And you were successful in getting the record. (00:59:19) Renuka Shah Very successful. Yeah. (00:59:21) Brody Well, that&#039 ; s wonderful. Congratulations on that. (00:59:24) Renuka Shah Thank you. (00:59:26) Brody Earlier, we were talking about the different festivals and things like that, and you alluded to religion. What you know again, India is a country that has, you know, several religions. How, in, in running your store, did you sort of, what role did religion play in either the products that you carried or didn&#039 ; t carry? (00:59:56) Renuka Shah People would... Slowly, slowly we started knowing and learning by either customers telling us, or we would research, we used and then find out, hey, Andhra people, certain religion people uses this during their, this festival. So then we would make sure that we have those products for them ready here in the store during that time. And... (01:00:26) Pramod Shah What, what like Kerala, there, some. Whatever the things they needed, they literally come, they say us how to get it and everything. And we used to get it and, give it to them. (01:00:42) Renuka Shah Yeah. And then we used to carry some books also in their own languages for the religious ceremonies and stuff, you know, religion stuff. Yeah. Their festivals and stuff. Traditionally, the South Indians and of course, now everybody, all in India, they are more into like dancing and stuff, Indian dances, so they need those ghungroo, those you know, in the ankle. (01:01:16) Brody Bells. (01:01:17) Renuka Shah The bells and stuff, so we used to carry everything for them. (01:01:20) Brody That&#039 ; s pretty specialized... (01:01:22) Renuka Shah Specialized things. (01:01:23) Brody Things for dancers. Were there other specialized areas that you carried? You ended up carrying things, for example? (01:01:35) Renuka Shah We carried even those special type of ornaments they wear during those for those dances. We used to carry that- whole, complete sets of it and we were renting them out also for them, so they don&#039 ; t have to buy the whole thing just for one event. So that and then we had some artificial jewelry all the time. And then bangles. (01:02:01) Pramod Shah (Speaking Gujurati to Renukah Shah) (01:02:05) Renuka Shah Arangetram. That&#039 ; s why I said those. (01:02:09) Pramod Shah (Speaking Gujurati to Renuka Shah) (01:02:10) Renuka Shah (Inaudible) (01:02:13) Brody What about for weddings? Was there, were there special things that you carried that were used for weddings? (01:02:20) Renuka Shah For weddings, also, we were carrying some of the stuff that&#039 ; s required for their ceremonies, like different types of trays and boxes and stuff and the decorative stuff, especially. And the garlands with artificial flowers, of course. And yeah, yeah. So lots of stuff. (01:02:41) Brody Yeah, there&#039 ; s a lot of special needs for each of these festivals or ceremonies or rituals. So it sounds like you mentioned books earlier. What types of books, are you talking about? Were they like things for children or? (01:03:02) Renuka Shah Yes, for everybody, actually. For children, we had those popular books from India that there would be. And it was all in English. So that&#039 ; s good. And the...We had cooking books. We had religious books. We had, for example, yoga books. Language learning books. (01:03:29) Brody For English or for? (01:03:32) Renuka Shah Language learning, meaning the kids born in US or abroad, out of India, they would know only English. So they would not know their own language, right? Their own region mother language. So this is English to their language. (01:03:50) Brody So they could, while living in America, learn the language of their parents. (01:03:55) Renuka Shah Yes. (01:03:56) Renuka Shah And the parents could communicate that to them as well. That&#039 ; s really interesting. When you look back at your experience for all those years running the store and being sort of the hub for Indian, the Indian community in, in really North Texas, what, what are some of your key reflections or things that you would want somebody to know about your experience? You know, far into the future. (01:04:34) Pramod Shah Kids up to 6, 7 years, they do, and they do that when they go to when they start going to school, high school, they are American. (01:04:47) Renuka Shah And the question...(Inaudible) the question. And would you say the question? (01:04:52) Brody Of course, of course. Just, you know, for a very long time, your store was the, you know, the largest store in the area for Indian supplies and Indian culture. When you look back at that experience and everything that you, you know that you did and that you learned, what are some key lessons or points that you would want people to know about your experience? (01:05:22) Renuka Shah Key lessons and points. Once, but then, once we are out from the business, you know, the connection, the connection is not there, so it&#039 ; s, it&#039 ; s only actually the other way around, right, now that the customers, when they see us, they come out and they will pinpoint our qualities and they were like, &quot ; We are missing because of this, right?&quot ; (01:05:48) Brody What kind of things do they miss? (01:05:50) Renuka Shah And they are missing definitely us because it was always like a personal service and it was like a family or a home for them. Our place was like a, they feel like their own place. And so, and the variety, quality, cleanliness, and the service. (01:06:10) Pramod Shah They say everything. They&#039 ; re still not getting anywhere all the stuff, so they when they meet, Oh my God, say &quot ; Why&#039 ; d you sell it, why&#039 ; d you close?&quot ; (01:06:22) Brody So, that makes me wonder. So, today there are a lot of a variety of Indian grocery stores and all sorts of places where you can get, you know, Indian food, Indian supplies. What are some of the key differences between what&#039 ; s available today and what you were doing when you were the only ones in town? (01:06:47) Renuka Shah Nowadays, as far as the variety-wise or the product-wise, mostly, everything&#039 ; s available because they started getting everything after us. (01:06:57) Pramod Shah Customers. They are not getting anything. So they must be and talking also. We used to get it from here and there. (01:07:05) Renuka Shah So they get all the stuff. But they&#039 ; re still missing our probably the mainly the quality and the service. Service, the personalized service. (01:07:17) Brody Right? Nowadays, do people who you know, who live here in Dallas and want various supplies, do they are they more likely to, in your view, go into a store or order simply online? Is it possible to do that? (01:07:36) Renuka Shah It&#039 ; s not possible everywhere. All the stores are not doing it, especially the &quot ; mom and pop&quot ; stores. They would not be able to afford it. But here in Dallas, at least, there are big, big stores, so most of them have that kind of online ordering services and stuff. Yeah, yeah. (01:07:54) Brody Or even outside of Dallas, right? Like, would it be possible today to get a lot of the, you know, the very specialty things from, you know, straight from India even? (01:08:05) Renuka Shah Yes, that&#039 ; s true. (01:08:06) Brody Yeah. (01:08:08) Pramod Shah Even saris also. Also available online. (01:08:10) Renuka Shah Everybody buys the dresses and stuff. (01:08:12) Pramod Shah Now. Because this big company, they are very big in India also now. So they know everything now, that company. So they also start that thing? Sari and lots of things are available. (01:08:29) Brody Yeah, it&#039 ; s a different... (01:08:31) Pramod Shah People used to go to India to get the saris and all this stuff for marriage. (01:08:37) Renuka Shah Now, they don&#039 ; t for shopping, they do online. (01:08:40) Brody You can do that here. So are there any other questions or any other points that I haven&#039 ; t asked you about today that we should talk about? (01:08:56) Renuka Shah Not really. Pretty much. (01:08:59) Pramod Shah Yeah. (01:09:00) Renuka Shah Whatever we could recall. (01:09:02) Brody I really appreciate your time and your participation in this project. Really interesting stories and important stories as well. So I really appreciate you. Thank you so much. (01:09:15) Renuka Shah Thank you for having us. 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

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“Interview with Renuka Shah, December 9, 2021,” Digging In Dallas, accessed July 12, 2024, https://diggingindallas.org/items/show/20.