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Indian American Grocery Giant Patel Brothers Opens its Second Largest Store in Niles

In its 45th year the store chain reports strong sales from 19 states


Niles mayor Andrew Przybylo cuts the ribbon with Mafat Patel and Tulsi Patel

For more than two hours enthusiastic shoppers waited in a serpentine line in the rain as Indian American grocery giant Patel Brothers’ newest 28,000 square feet store opened here on October 3.

From a modest first 800 square feet outlet in Devon in 1974, which saw days when cash registers barely opened, Patel Brothers is now celebrating its 45 years in the business of catering to the growing and eclectic household needs of the large Indian American community in American 19 states. With more than 50 stores under its ownership, Patel Brothers has become an icon of the community’s remarkable trading success. It has consistently reported strong sales over the decades for the family-owned empire.

(L-R) Niles mayor Andrew Przybylo, Co-founders Mafat Patel & State Senator Ram Villivalam

The Patel family headed by the patriarch Mafat Patel has struck a balance between modernity of America and traditions of India. In keeping with that approach, priests from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple, Bartlett, supervised a religious ceremony to mark the store’s opening at 9555 North Milwaukee Ave. Niles, IL 60714.

An official release said over 1,200 people showed up to shop within minutes of the store’s opening.

Mafat Patel, co-founder of the chain attributed it’s success to “the hard work and talent of the third generation of Patel family leaders in advancing the business and building the Indian grocery empire.” Patel Brothers was initially started by the Tulsibhai Patel, a hardworking but uneducated Indian businessman with a passion for his family and Indian values.

“We have nothing but gratitude,” said Swetal Patel, vice president and company spokesperson who is Mafat Patel’s younger son. “With many choices out there for the consumer, they still have such loyalty. We are all so thankful.”

The Mayor of Niles, Andrew Przybylo accompanied Mafat Patel in cutting the ribbon as shoppers eagerly waited to enter the new store. “We are truly a diverse community. We celebrate all cultures,” said Przybylo.

“Patel Brothers stores offer everything from an on-site bakery and hot food items, a collection of exotic Indian vegetables found exclusively at their stores, massive variety Indian grains and frozen food items, to carefully curated selection of adjacent shops catering to the Indian community,” the release said.

Over the last four and half decades the Patel family has mastered the craft of running a big box grocery store chain with its dedicated supply chains that ensure quality control.

Rakesh Patel, Mafat Patel’s elder son and the brain behind locationa and supply management, said, “This is how Indian grocery shopping should be. With plenty of room to move around comfortably.” He added that the new store is outfitted with an additional 12,000 square feet of space for storage on the second floor and a rear parking lot made with permeable pavement to reduce stormwater runoff.”

“We know it’s a strong retail corner. Niles has a very ethnic and diverse offering, and this will only continue to add to those offerings, which will only help our very diverse population,” said Niles Economic Development Coordinator Ross Klicker.

The new store is expected to bring significant tax revenues from food sales to the Village of Niles. The village imposes a 2.5 percent sales tax on all businesses selling food, and the boost from tax revenue to the village from the new store is yet to be fully realized.

“This is a great use for the village. We’re very confident it’s going to be an outstanding location. It’ll be very successful for all parties involved,” Klicker said.

Recently in an interview with Hi India Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico had expressed similar sentiments about Patel Brothers in Naperville.

Patel Brothers also operate four other stores in Illinois with locations in Schaumburg, Hanover Park, West Rogers Park, and Naperville, their largest location. The Naperville location has transformed shopping habits of the Indian American and South Asian American community in the area.

“Naperville, opened two years ago, is No. 1 in size, with more space, a unique bakery, hot and cold sections, more parking,” Rakesh Patel was quoted as saying by The Chicago Tribune’s Louisa Chu. “Niles is No. 2 in size.”

Chirico had said the presence of a big store like Patel Brothers in Naperville sent strong signals to other businesses that the city was on a strong economic footing. Patel Brothers in Niles is expected to do the same.

The Patel family has ensured that their original store in Devon remains and retains all its early charms but at the same time built the largest Indian retail chain of its kind in America.

Swetal Patel, younger brother to Rakesh, said, “This year, we’re celebrating 45 years in business. Nowadays the store footprints start at about 20,000 square feet. The store that we’re in today is 28,000 square feet with a 12,000-square-foot second floor storage space.”

With a median household income of over $100,000, the highest for any ethnic group, Indian Americans are picky but frequent shoppers. Patel Brothers has over the decades developed a keen sense of what they are looking for—fresh produce is often the most coveted item—and tailored their 57 stores accordingly.

It is unclear whether the number of such large Indian American stores is reaching a saturation point in relation to the number of Indian American households but given the community’s spread and continued new arrivals there may be room for some more.