Upon moving to the Clifton Park area 20 years ago, Gurbax Kaur noticed not only the lack of a market in the vicinity of Northway Exit 8 but also the lack of one that would serve the town's Indian community.
In August, she addressed both of her concerns by opening Guru's Supermarket in the Plaza 8 Shopping Center just west of the Exit 8 interchange. While she owns the store, her husband, Amrinder Singh, helps out on the weekend along with other family members. Owning an Indian grocery store seems to run in the family; Kaur's father has operated one for years downstate in Rockland County.
While Guru's offers a variety of Indian grocery staples, fresh fruits and vegetables are also available for purchase. Kaur's goal was to open a market where people could stop in and pick up anything they needed, such as dinner ingredients, on their way home from work.
“Off of Exit 8, there was nothing here,” she explained. “That’s what inspired me to open up a business in this area. Customers who are coming in are very, very happy to have something like this. There was nothing where, if someone wants a ricotta cheese, or someone wants potatoes, they can just quickly grab something.”
Kaur waited for the right property to become free for Guru's. When the spot at the Plaza 8 Shopping Center became available, she went for it and hasn't looked back.
While the town is home to three supermarkets owned by two large regional chains -- Hannaford on Clifton Country Road and a pair of Market 32 locations on Route 146 -- Kaur said that she doesn't feel pressured by them. The presence of those stores doesn't change the fact that, before she opened Guru's, there weren't many food shopping options for town residents near Exit 8.
“I’ve seen Exit 9 expand so much. My target was just to cover Exit 8, not to compete,” she said.
Kaur describes her clientele to date as "diverse."
While customers come from as far as Saratoga for Indian groceries, Kaur said she has seen many other locals come in to try, and usually enjoy, Indian staples and cuisine for the first time.
“A lot of American people are coming in and trying out the food,” she said.
To her, Exit 8 has always felt like a community-based neighborhood, as opposed to a stop before the Northway. She indicates that others who feel the same are glad to see a family-owned and operated shop succeed in what has become a busy commercial hub.
Yet, while the response has been positive, she says that many town residents still don't know that her market exists.
“We’ve been there two months but people are still coming through the store and didn’t know we were here,” she said. “People are still finding out about it.”
Kaur’s plan to bring in more customers hinges on making the market into a store that reacts to their needs.
To expand the store’s offerings, Kaur plans to implement a system through which customers can write down what they would like to see in the store, and she will work to bring those products in.
This system, she said, will help her to avoid a guessing game over what to bring in, and allows her to react directly to the wants and needs of her customers.
“We’ll add more and more items that customers are asking for. We want to add what customers want,” she said. She noted that her offerings of fruit and vegetables are largely locally sourced from area farms and orchards.
Guru’s currently offers a small amount of ready-to-eat-food for customers to purchase, including samosas, which are a crowd favorite, Kaur said. Eventually, she hopes to expand the store's hot food offerings.
But for now, Kaur said that being present is enough.
“I just want people to know that we’re here, and to serve our community here with whatever they need,” she said.
Guru’s Supermarket is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.