DeKALB – It didn’t take long for DJ Bhatt to meet his first angry customer at Gurukrupa Indian Grocery & Copy Service, the only Indian grocer within 40 miles of DeKalb.
“He was so upset with me, and I asked him why, and he told me, ‘I just bought a car to get my groceries,’” Bhatt, 30, said.
The grocery store had its grand opening July 24 at 1005 W. Lincoln Highway, and still features the full-service copy center students have come to rely on.
“People have been literally giving us blessings,” Bhatt said.
The closest place to grocery shop for legit Indian food before now? Bhatt’s store in Naperville.
Because of Northern Illinois University’s strong population of Indian students, Bhatt made about a dozen deliveries from the Naperville location.
For that to make sense, though, the customers had to buy hundreds of dollars of groceries in bulk, meaning lots of frozen food.
So he and his wife, Mona, bought the location and set up a condo in the back.
They’ve got two children, a 5-year-old and an 8-month-old, so they bounce between DeKalb, their home in Yorkville, and the Naperville store that’s still in business.
From naan to myriad rices to Indian ice cream, the store won’t leave anyone wanting, Mona Bhatt, 29, said.
“We’ve had many customers say we have everything they’re looking for,” she said.
They kept on all the staff from the previous owners, and employee Emery Dhanens, of DeKalb, is quite grateful.
“It’s wonderful that they kept all the employees,” she said. “They’re very welcoming, and they treat us like family.”
“We reached from the bottom to where we are today,” DJ Bhatt said. “We know how they’d feel if we told them they’re done here. They’re well-trained. One of them has two PhDs. They always want to learn something new.”
Dhanens said she and other employees are enjoying expanding their palates, too, as the Bhatts encourage their employees to get to know their products.
“I was eating stuff I’d never tried before, and I might have had multiple helpings,” Dhanens said. “I don’t know the names of everything yet, though.”
Bhatt plans to add more produce options over time, but said the store is otherwise fully stocked with the same products his Naperville location features.
The store also features some familiar American products.
Bhatt said he’s working with the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce to set up sessions in which groups will get tours and education on the cuisine, including the health benefits of specific Indian spices.
“A lot of spices we eat not just for taste,” he said. “They can also fight against illness, and you feel really good when you eat them.”