COVID-19 Symptom Attestation

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  • Welcome, everyone.
  • My name's Athena.
  • I'm with Outreach and Continuing Education and Western C.A.R.E.S.
  • here at Western Washington University.
  • I'm going to be acting as your host
  • today for this session of Stories to Tell.
  • Just a quick note, this interview is being recorded
  • and will be archived by the Center
  • for Pacific Northwest Studies and the South Asian-American
  • Digital Archives, and they will be made available to the public
  • for research, teaching, and education.
  • A bit about Western C.A.R.E.S. before we start.
  • We started this as a resource for us
  • to connect and share and maintain
  • our sense of community and engagement during these days
  • where we're trying to stay home and stay healthy and take
  • care of each other.
  • These are online interactive sessions
  • put on by your colleagues and peers who
  • are volunteering their time and experience
  • and interests with you.
  • As your host, I'm going to introduce your session,
  • and then I'm here to provide any tech support that you may need.
  • Do know that you entered the call today
  • with your sound muted and your video off,
  • because we are recording and that
  • helps us to keep the video focused on our speakers.
  • There will be time at the end where
  • we'll turn your sound back on, if you'd
  • like, to ask questions.
  • If you're not comfortable with that,
  • there is a chat option on the side in Zoom as well.
  • And you can type them in there, and we'll monitor that as well.
  • So thank you so much for joining us,
  • and now I'm going to hand it over for the interview.
  • Dharitri, thanks.
  • Welcome everyone.
  • This is Stories to Tell, and I'm Dharitri Bhattacharjee.
  • I teach in the history department
  • at Western Washington University.
  • In this oral history series our goal
  • is to explore a diversity of South Asian perspectives
  • on COVID-19.
  • The region of South Asia comprises India, Bangladesh,
  • Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives
  • and Afghanistan.
  • This week and next week will be our last week
  • on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • We are bringing in new South Asian voices for you.
  • I will ask questions for thirty minutes,
  • and after that you are encourages to ask questions
  • to our guest.
  • And today our guest Amarnath Deva.
  • Minorities and immigrants are routinely
  • absent and underrepresented in archival collection.
  • I could not be more proud to be convening this series.
  • I will be conducting the interview,
  • but there are several people who have made this possible.
  • I want to especially acknowledge the contribution of Western
  • C.A.R.E.S' Program Specialist Athena Roth,
  • and the Center for Pacific and Northwest Studies Archivist
  • Ruth Steele.
  • So thank you for joining us, Amarnath.
  • And Amarnath is the owner of Seattle's largest South Asian
  • grocery store, Mayuri.
  • Among other topics of conversation
  • Amarnath will talk to us about small business economy
  • and immigrant consumer culture.
  • So Amarnath, lets start with you telling us
  • a little bit about your background,
  • and why did you come, or why did you want to come to the US.
  • OK.
  • As you mentioned, my name is Amarnath Deva.
  • I'm from Visakhapatnam, India.
  • Grew up there and came in 1980, July 31st, almost 40 years.
  • I did my undergraduate in India, majoring in commerce.
  • And I started doing my articles in chartered accounting, which
  • they call the CPA here.
  • And then I got the opportunity, via my uncle
  • [? slash ?] my mom who migrated to United States as an immigrant.
  • And my mom applied for us, and so we took the opportunity,
  • because back then also the United States
  • was the first choice for opportunities and better
  • lifestyle, and better opportunities
  • to work and educate yourself and make a living.
  • So, with that opportunity we came over here,
  • migrated to the United States.
  • So what was it like [AUDIO CUTS OUT] in India?
  • Did everyone you know-- was the aspiration
  • to get out of the country?
  • Move to a country like the US?
  • Or there were only some-- you know,
  • some among the youth who wanted to.
  • I mean, back then also--
  • I mean, it start as--
  • I mean, people are not as motivated as today to come
  • to United States as back then.
  • Simply because there is a lot of unknown factors.
  • Because we didn't have--
  • now with TVs and all this media and everything,
  • the culture and everything is quite visible to people living
  • abroad, what lifestyle and what standard
  • of living in the United States.
  • As opposed to back then, we'd still--
  • we know we are having relatives and people--
  • some magazines that would come that we would get it
  • in the library, places like that,
  • to educate ourselves about the United States.
  • And back then, Russia is also relatively prominent place.
  • So it's all the 1980s, which means
  • this is pre-liberalization.
  • So aspirations for a better lifestyle [AUDIO CUTS OUT]
  • to the US.
  • So if it's 1980, that means you have been
  • in the US for 40 years now.
  • So if you can tell us briefly--
  • to summarize 40 years of your life.
  • Like how has the journey been?
  • What was it that brought you [AUDIO CUTS OUT]
  • as opposed to ... in India [? you had a dream ?] as a chartered accountant?
  • That's not your [AUDIO DISTORTION HERE]?
  • Yes.
  • Well, I went through several ups and downs in the last 40 years.
  • Like when I came in, in the '80s,
  • the Iranian crisis was number one back then.
  • And because all the hostages began
  • in Iran and so a lot of people, general public,
  • they couldn't distinguish between the Iranians
  • and other nation members, so a lot of people
  • used to think that I'm from Iran.
  • And especially when I was in fast food,
  • shich is a customer service oriented line,
  • I interacted with a lot of the public.
  • And they would get upset or whatever,
  • they'll start cursing me thinking that I'm
  • from Iran and so on, so forth.
  • So I went through that period for some time.
  • I mean that, I have to say that it's not, I mean
  • the majority of the people are very, very well behaved.
  • Very few people, I would say, is in that kind of phase,
  • abusive phase.
  • But otherwise, most of the people,
  • they're very helpful and sympathetic
  • to foreigners who are coming in and trying
  • to establish themselves in the country and so on and so forth.
  • That's normal.
  • So after the Iranian crisis, then we
  • went through this economic crisis in the sense
  • that the gas prices and so on and so forth,
  • the economy was in really bad shape.
  • That's when Reagan took over from Carter.
  • And it worked--
  • I mean, I would say, to briefly summarize the thing,
  • I mean, there is a lot of ups and downs in the last 40 years.
  • And yeah, so overall, it was pretty good.
  • So you came over here.
  • First, you were in California, right?
  • And what business did you have there?
  • And then when did you move to Washington?
  • I came in 1980.
  • So after 2000, which is 20 years,
  • I was in California doing quick service restaurants of my own.
  • Then from there, we moved to Washington--
  • Seattle, Washington.
  • And probably I did that because we purchased the Days Inn
  • hotel.
  • And right after we bought it, 9/11 hit,
  • and the hotel business took a big dive.
  • And again, once again, almost bankrupt.
  • Then when I was looking for another business opportunity,
  • then that's how I stumbled across there's so many
  • Indians, especially the East Side, Bellevue, Redmond.
  • Redmond being the Microsoft headquarters and Amazon.
  • A lot of Indians are coming in to work.
  • And they needed grocery items, and everybody's
  • catering towards--
  • back then, Punjabis are the dominating people.
  • And so they would cater to them, Punjabis and Punjabis.
  • And nobody know what the food habits for the South Indians
  • is like.
  • So that also gave me a good niche market.
  • So I jumped in and we started bringing in South Indian
  • speciality items.
  • And that's how I started.
  • Well, you have-- therefore, after you came to the US,
  • you have been a serial entrepreneur.
  • You started with the food court business.
  • Then you said you moved to the hotel business.
  • You went almost bankrupt.
  • And then you started your grocery store.
  • And that's Mayuri, Is that right?
  • That's correct.
  • Yes.
  • So Mayuri has been running since what time,
  • and how has your store changed?
  • If you can talk about that.
  • How did the idea--
  • like you mentioned that--
  • you talked about why the idea came to you
  • of starting the grocery store.
  • Because it was in Redmond, and there's
  • a huge South Asian population there.
  • But since then, how has the grocery store transformed?
  • Yes, yeah.
  • We started with a 4,000 square feet footprint and then,
  • slowly, we started looking at various ways
  • to expand our business.
  • In terms of we wanted to like--
  • I mean, I studied the mainstream stores more or less.
  • Like one stop shopping is the key
  • for most of the Safeway and those places.
  • So we added a few things, like ready-to-eat food, bakery
  • items, snacks, sweets and specialty meats
  • that are primarily purchased by Indians, which
  • is like our diet is chicken and mutton, which is goat and lamb
  • and so on and so forth.
  • Very little pork and beef is consumed in India.
  • So we tried to--
  • at our place, we just specialized only
  • with chicken and mutton, which is goat and lamb.
  • And vegetables.
  • That's the big thing.
  • Indian vegetables are different from mainstream vegetables.
  • And nowadays, California also has a lot of immigrants,
  • so they started growing our Indian vegetables in California
  • and Texas and Florida.
  • And so they bring in by air, by truck.
  • And even from Hawaii, we get curry
  • leaves and so on and so forth.
  • So all these things, we could only operate fully
  • if we had good volumes.
  • And that's what-- so that's why we
  • had to grow from 4,000 to 13,000 square feet recently
  • in Redmond.
  • And then we added another one in Bothell
  • for another 14,000 square feet.
  • OK.
  • In 20 years, you've moved from 4,000 to 13,000.
  • That's quite a feat.
  • Having achieved that feat, will you tell us like,
  • how did the pandemic--
  • how did the pandemic hit you as a small business owner?
  • Because since March, that's what you've been dealing.
  • Both in your Redmond and Bothell locations.
  • Yes.
  • Yeah.
  • Basically, we're facing a lot of challenges
  • because of the COVID.
  • Definitely, in terms of our daily operations,
  • we had to make a lot of changes in terms
  • of dealing with the customers and in terms of bringing in--
  • maintaining the social distancing
  • and maintaining the hygiene in terms of keeping our shopping
  • carts clean and keeping our customers
  • from employees-- direct contact by putting
  • plexiglass dividers in between, and so on so forth.
  • We had to do all those things.
  • And then not-- supply chain, also, we
  • had to make several changes.
  • Because we had to discontinue some of the offerings
  • that we'd been doing, which is like self-serve, bulk bins,
  • and hot food.
  • This sort of steam table by way of by portion size.
  • And small packaging that customer could
  • make and purchase it by weight and so on and so forth.
  • So all those things, we had to discontinue
  • because of the COVID and stick with only prepackaged products.
  • So that the hygiene levels are high and contamination
  • is low.
  • So there were some [AUDIO DISTORTION] .. little bit of background.
  • If I hear you correctly, your, some sections
  • of the store had to be shut down because
  • of the pandemic And the bakery and the hot food section
  • not been going on.
  • So how did the grocery section do?
  • The grocery side actually did very well.
  • I mean, whatever the sales we lost
  • from the bulk bins and the hot food and things like that,
  • we gained more on the grocery side.
  • Meaning a few people started--
  • because of the pandemic, a lot of people started going to work
  • and working from home and staying home.
  • And they're not going out to a lot of meetings and outings.
  • So they started cooking at home.
  • And therefore, they started purchasing more grocery items,
  • taking it home and cooking it themselves.
  • So our grocery business has picked up
  • 30% more than what we used to do in the past.
  • That's great.
  • Can you talk a little bit about how
  • you responded to the social distancing
  • advice that came out, right?
  • Because it's an enclosed space, and there's
  • all this information coming out about being in closed spaces,
  • and then you have to maintain social distance.
  • So what are some of the changes that you
  • had to make in your store, in your business,
  • in order to respond to the pandemic
  • and to continue with your business?
  • Yes.
  • We did several changes.
  • Number one is number of people allowed into the store
  • at any given point, to keep--
  • maintaining the social distancing.
  • Based on our square footage, the aisle space and so on and so
  • forth, we figured only--
  • without our employees.
  • It's about 12 customers that we could handle at the time.
  • So we kept a couple of guys outside
  • and they would monitor the number of people
  • that entered into the store.
  • That would never cross 12 people.
  • And number two, even once you cross into the store,
  • then we started putting stickers six feet apart in each aisle.
  • And also, we designated aisles, one side is enter
  • and the other side is exit.
  • So it's like a one way traffic kind of thing.
  • And even in the produce aisle, it's about--
  • our produce aisle is about 28 feet long.
  • And so every six feet, we put a sticker.
  • And then we would keep one or two people
  • in the aisle monitoring the customers.
  • And if we have too many people coming into the produce
  • section, we would request them, can you please wait?
  • I mean, all these things we had to do back in the beginning.
  • But within two weeks, even the customers
  • learned how to behave, these kind of things.
  • And they started doing it on their own kind of thing.
  • So now we have only one or two people
  • in the store kind of going around and monitoring the floor
  • traffic, to make sure everybody is maintaining social distance
  • and the customers are happy.
  • So today, as we are doing this interview, of course the headlines have been that the economy has plunged 13 per cent.
  • And I think all of us who are living through this,
  • we are also witnessing shops closing, restaurants closing,
  • almost like an everyday story.
  • So for one, of course, I'm very, very glad
  • to know that the business did well.
  • What about your employees?
  • Did you have to--
  • were you able to retain your workforce?
  • Did you let them go?
  • How did you manage your employees?
  • How did you take care of them?
  • We were very fortunate to have multiple offerings
  • under our label, Mayuri label.
  • We have restaurants, bakery, and chaat, and grocery.
  • So the restaurant and the bakery part
  • kind of suffered because of COVID.
  • So what we did is we put those employees who all wanted
  • to continue to work brought them into the grocery side
  • and we had to take extra precautions in the grocery
  • side, as opposed to cleaning the carts and cleaning the shopping
  • bags, and so on and so forth.
  • So we had these people do those kind of work.
  • And anybody who has underlying factors like if they
  • are sugar patients or heart patients and things
  • like that they requested time off.
  • So we gave them the time off and picked up the other people
  • who wanted to work in our bakery or restaurant
  • into the grocery side.
  • And quickly trained them for smaller jobs
  • not special jobs but other jobs like bagging,
  • stocking, facing the shelves, so on and so forth.
  • And that's how we have been able to keep
  • most of our people employed.
  • So it looks like you didn't have to let go people,
  • which is great.
  • Also during the pandemic we've seen
  • even if you're a big company there are problems supporting
  • a lot of employees and that's been difficult.
  • But also one of the things that big grocery chains are
  • able to do is quickly resort to technology,
  • they work on curbside pickup, make all these arrangements
  • and be more able to adapt to the needs of the pandemic
  • far better than smaller grocery chains were
  • able to do, in terms of curb-side pickup,
  • in terms of taking online orders, filling online orders
  • and doing everything.
  • So how much was Mayuri able to adapt to all?
  • Pretty much I would say 50% to 60%.
  • We could have done more.
  • But we want to pay for this and one best part
  • for us is the majority of our customer base is IT-based,
  • and they quickly figured out that most
  • of these Indian stores don't have
  • online ordering and online pickup, and so on and so forth.
  • Now there's a few reasons why we didn't have that,
  • because our customers mostly like
  • to buy fresh vegetables and also spices.
  • Some of them are not branded so they
  • want to see the quality of the spice, of the lentils,
  • of the rice before they pick it up.
  • So therefore they want in person that hands on experience.
  • That's the reason why we never really
  • focused on the online business.
  • But with this COVID we had no choice
  • but we had to embrace that.
  • And so the customers also felt that's the right thing.
  • And so they kind of helped us out.
  • A couple of smart girls from Bay Area
  • came up with this [? vc.com ?] app, and people like us
  • who don't have that app, shopping cart, and all
  • those things.
  • They kind of help us out to set up a quick thing like fax,
  • email.
  • So as a customer you can just hand-write your order,
  • and then--
  • the funny part is in any language.
  • I mean it would come in in English
  • but the names would have, for example, Chinese okra, in Urdu,
  • you would call it bendekai.
  • So they would write bendekai,
  • and things like that.
  • And luckily we have people from all over the states working
  • at our store so they would go and ask them,
  • "What does this mean?"
  • And then we'd go pick all those vegetables and everything
  • put together.
  • And then when you come to the store
  • you would call us, and then at that point we ring up
  • your order.
  • Because majority of the time we did not have everything
  • that you asked for, or sometimes we
  • had to substitute some items.
  • And so we take your permission to do that.
  • And then finally, we cleared the bill,
  • and then bring the cart to you, and you
  • swipe your card and pay, and then we'd load it up,
  • and there you go.
  • So maybe you were not able to do exactly what bigger chains did,
  • but also as you were answering--
  • you know how South Asians like to look
  • at what they are buying.
  • Like to touch it, feel it.
  • I was also thinking that to most immigrants
  • your store must be sort of the most important place that
  • reminds them of home.
  • So even if there are some places where you're not
  • able to match up produce you are still
  • offering very, very [AUDIO DISTORTION] food from home, right?
  • So that makes a difference.
  • So I had one more question just about your observation
  • of what's going on in the store.
  • Which is, did you notice anything
  • about consumer behavior, or how the social behavior
  • within the space of your store changed during the pandemic?
  • Yes definitely.
  • I mean it's easing up now, but back in March and April,
  • we really, really could see that the worry in their face.
  • They were really, really concerned.
  • And we could see only one person in the family
  • would come out and shop all the time, either mother
  • or a father, and the rest of them they just stay in the car.
  • And then bring the products in the bag,
  • they would put it in their trunk.
  • They're very cautious because we didn't know how this COVID
  • disease is transmitted.
  • And so therefore everybody is really, really worried.
  • And we were getting different information
  • from the CDC and all other sources.
  • Every time it's something different.
  • So everybody was concerned.
  • So you could see that concern in a lot of customer's faces.
  • And also our employees, too.
  • They were really, really worried.
  • Scared to work long hours because they didn't want to get
  • exposed to it.
  • And worst of all--
  • everybody now is forgetting-- is that Seattle was
  • the epicenter for this thing.
  • And though New York and other places picked up later on,
  • but it's happened to us in Kirkland,
  • and which is next down to Bothell and Redmond.
  • And so it's fresh in everybody's mind.
  • Everybody is really scared and a lot of people are dying.
  • I mean we know that they are dying because of COVID.
  • And most of our customers are young couples
  • coming from abroad, and their loved ones, their parents and everybody
  • are back home in India.
  • And the majority of them are the main breadwinners
  • for the family too.
  • These guys earn money and send it back home.
  • So there's so much riding on their well-being.
  • So you could see all that in the customers.
  • And so they tried to maintain the social
  • distance and everything on their own.
  • And if somebody also comes too close to them,
  • they would get upset and worried and they
  • would bring that to our attention, even if we bring in more people
  • or if they're too close.
  • Those kinds of things.
  • But was there a marked change in consumer behavior
  • that you noticed?
  • What was it-- the consumer behavior change?
  • It's getting a bit more relaxed about now.
  • From March, April, May, June, they're
  • getting a little bit more relaxed.
  • Because now we know how it's transmitted.
  • As long as you are careful that you
  • wash your hands and everything that they are telling you.
  • Maintain that and they know that you may not get it.
  • So that's what they're doing.
  • They're not going out too often, unless it's necessary and so on.
  • Yes.
  • So we don't know when the pandemic will be over
  • because we don't know so many things right now.
  • So if it continues for a year, when
  • you look ahead how can you plan?
  • Are you prepared for Mayuri to continue
  • if this continues for a year?
  • Oh, yes.
  • We will stay in business.
  • We'll continue to do what is necessary
  • and we are in fact looking for new locations
  • to expand our business and so on so forth.
  • And at the same time, we are investing money
  • into doing this online business, curbside business.
  • And the new leases that we are negotiating,
  • we are requiring landlords to provide us curbside pickup
  • areas, and all those things.
  • Yes, we are planning ahead for this.
  • Thinking that if not COVID-19 then
  • it could be something else.
  • But this is going to be part of our life going forward.
  • That's how we are prepared.
  • As South Asian, the big festivals are coming up.
  • How do you think the festival season will be?
  • That's a good question in the sense
  • that we just went through one or two festivals
  • and there was a test for us.
  • Especially in March when the COVID
  • really peaked in the later part of March and early April,
  • people were really, really concerned.
  • We went through a couple of important festivals like a New
  • Years for many states.
  • And what we noticed is about 20% to 25% down on our volumes.
  • But still people bought those items
  • and excludes a lot of fresh coming through the stores.
  • Only even that drop happened because we
  • feel that the lines are too long for people
  • to get into the store.
  • And that's the reason why we couldn't service them.
  • Not that the demand wasn't there.
  • It's mostly because of the lines displaced a lot of people.
  • And so moving forward what we are trying to do
  • is prepackage some of those items for each festival.
  • And you can come in for the Ganesha,
  • whatever thing you need for the Puja
  • We would just package those all in one big bag
  • so you just pick that up and you purchase that.
  • It makes it much easier for you to get it done.
  • And so we can get you in and out much quicker.
  • So those are the things that, for Durga Puja,
  • we're doing the same thing,
  • for Lakshmi, we're doing the same thing.
  • We're pre-packaging items so that we could do that.
  • So just for our listeners of South Asian [AUDIO CUTS OUT]
  • and Hinduism is a prominent religion in South Asia.
  • And so all these references are meaning
  • they're like big celebrations revering some of millions goddesses
  • and gods and goddesses in this, Lakshmi, Durga, these are all goddesses
  • and there are big celebrations.
  • Right. One question I'm asking everyone in this series is,
  • was there a particular moment during this last four or five
  • months when you suddenly realized
  • you were living through the global pandemic?
  • If you recall it, can you share or describe the moment.
  • Yes absolutely, in the sense that especially
  • during the late part of March, I think, or early April, I
  • personally stayed home because of my health conditions
  • and so I started watching TV and the news
  • that we would get from New York and Washington DC, the White
  • House and all that.
  • And then of course the WhatsApp from India.
  • A good thing is back then India was in lockdown
  • so there's not much of the bad news coming from there.
  • And we were really praising how well they've managed it.
  • And then we were feeling really scared in our country,
  • especially Seattle, California, and New
  • York, and all these places.
  • And during that time, I was really, really scared
  • and staying home and watching TV and talking to people.
  • And I thought, OK, this is it.
  • I mean in WhatsApp you would see animals
  • coming into the streets and all these things.
  • It's no wonder everybody knew that this
  • was something unique and you will never
  • see that in their lifetime.
  • So yes we felt that really.
  • So you said because of health reasons
  • you decided to stay back.
  • So are you completely quarantined?
  • Are you visiting--
  • Well, I did that and then I snapped out of it.
  • I said OK, as long as I maintain social distance
  • and maintain the recommended guidelines
  • I shouldn't worry too much.
  • I should about doing my fairly routine business.
  • And just staying home only was getting me depressed on day
  • to day basis.
  • I think mid-May I decided to start working again.
  • And every day I'm going to work
  • I'm glad you are doing well now.
  • Thanks for sharing this with us because I think a lot of people
  • have to choose between life and life issues.
  • I think that has been one of the most difficult decisions
  • you have had to make during the pandemic, right?
  • How can you prioritize between life and life issues.
  • Exactly.
  • So thank you so much for talking with us, and for your time,
  • and telling us all these stories.
  • Like your story about arriving and getting your visa soon
  • enough.
  • It's like, for a green card right now
  • immigrants have to wait for 20 years.
  • So I'll keep thinking about all that.
  • So at this point we'll ask if anyone has questions for you.
  • And we have a couple of questions on the chat,
  • and then turn on your video and ask the question.
  • Amar, if you want you can turn on your video as well.
  • OK.
  • Hi, Amar.
  • I think there's a question from Ruth.
  • Amarnath, can you read it or should I read it?
  • I can't read it, but if you could, that would be nice.
  • OK.
  • Yes, sure.
  • So, Amarnath, thank you so much.
  • "You mentioned the many changes you
  • had to put in place for your business due to COVID 19.
  • What support did you--" Oh, excellent question, Ruth.
  • I almost know the question now.
  • "So what's support did you and other small business owners
  • in Seattle receive to make these changes?
  • Was there good guidance and/or any financial support
  • to make these change?
  • I'm curious what you might have done differently,
  • or that could still be done."
  • Yes, the support we received is from the local Redmond city
  • council.
  • They're still holding regular small business meetings
  • with all the small business owners and offering
  • us support if anybody needs any help.
  • You have to understand, the Bellevue-Redmond area there's
  • a lot of ethnic business around there and some of them
  • may not be able to communicate properly
  • in English the signage that is required with this new COVID.
  • So they would help us to translate
  • that's in Indian language and in English,
  • and so on and so forth.
  • And even the script a [? bank ?] and then you
  • can give it to your sign makers and they can make the signs
  • and put it in.
  • And also explain to your employees what to look for
  • and how to do all those things.
  • A constant help both from the Health Department and from the city
  • council.
  • And then financial help as well in terms
  • of the Small Business Administration
  • loans and all those things.
  • And if employees need any further assistance
  • the Indian local associations also
  • reached out through us asking us if any of our employees
  • need any help in terms of food-wise,
  • or any boarding assistance.
  • And just to remind you if not else
  • I'm curious what you might have done differently.
  • If you did not receive this support what would
  • you have done differently?
  • Or that could still be done.
  • Yes one good thing is that we've been
  • a very successful business.
  • And community did really help us to grow so much.
  • From 4,000 square feet, now we have two locations,
  • one is 13,000 and the other is 14,000 square feet.
  • We do over, I would say, one point
  • some million dollars a month in revenue in both the locations.
  • So we have a good precedent.
  • We have good cash flow.
  • So if I couldn't find any funding
  • from the SBA or the city I would have funded myself
  • the majority of these things.
  • We would not have hesitated a single second
  • to take care of this issue.
  • And what else I really wanted to tell you--
  • I really, really want to focus on this online business.
  • It's not as easy as we think it is.
  • Keeping the inventory because people are shopping
  • and constantly taking the stuff, and then we
  • have to update our inventory constantly.
  • And then most of our products come
  • from abroad and from other southern states
  • and it takes timing, and logistics,
  • and all those things.
  • It's a challenge I don't know how Amazon does it.
  • Maybe that's the reason why they pay millions
  • of dollars for their logistics,
  • they invest in.
  • We, on the other hand, don't have that kind of capital
  • to invest.
  • But we are working on it.
  • That's great.
  • And great question, Ruth.
  • Any other questions?
  • Amber, yes.
  • Yes, I have a question.
  • Thank you so much for sharing your story.
  • It was absolutely fascinating.
  • I'm a historian by profession, and I
  • didn't know how interesting it could be
  • to learn about supply chains.
  • But believe me I was hanging on your every word.
  • And I have like 100 questions for you.
  • But one that I was thinking about your past experience
  • in a number of different businesses.
  • One of the things that has happened
  • to me since the pandemic is I have
  • begun to look at everything I've done in my life
  • as preparation for this moment.
  • So for instance I'm sitting here at my sewing machine right
  • now sewing masks while you were talking,
  • and I'm so grateful that I learned to sew from my mother
  • when I was a child.
  • Traveling abroad, living in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh.
  • Thinking about how I could consume different things
  • or develop different habits.
  • That I learned to be resilient and nimble.
  • Because of those experiences that I feel
  • have helped me a lot during the pandemic.
  • So my question to you is having had all these experiences what
  • are the ones that you look to that you think were the best
  • preparation or helped you learn some tool or skill that
  • have helped you to manage and be as flexible as you have been
  • during all these changes?
  • It's definitely I would say it's our staff that came
  • from different backgrounds.
  • They came forward and they guided us in many ways.
  • Like some of my staff's spouses are IT-based people.
  • Some of them have other skills.
  • So they kind of said, hey, do you need this?
  • My husband, my wife, can do this for you.
  • We could build this shield between the customers
  • and us if we can get plexiglass
  • and then they would make those things.
  • And masks.
  • They would stitch those masks.
  • And then they'd say, hey, we have a very good source
  • to purchase these masks, so customers coming in
  • and they can't afford one we can provide them for free,
  • or nominal price.
  • And all these things, these resources,
  • everything came from--
  • believe it or not, majority from our employees,
  • and as well as the customers.
  • Even the customers.
  • They came to us and say, hey, we're so glad you're open,
  • you're doing all these things.
  • Do you need any help?
  • We can do the crowd control.
  • We can clean the baskets.
  • We can clean the shopping carts.
  • Trust me, it's unbelievable.
  • We know that we just added expenses I
  • know you guys can't afford it.
  • We can do this for you.
  • And you know it's unbelievable.
  • I didn't think it's in them, but it is remarkable.
  • I can see it in your smile, what a difference that has
  • made for you.
  • Yes.
  • Absolutely.
  • And Dharitri was saying earlier that the grocery
  • store is a taste of home.
  • It is an extension and that way of home in a way
  • that people get that familiarity and that then you
  • are all family to each other.
  • It's really amazing.
  • Sure.
  • Yes.
  • I mean, just the smell, right, of an Indian grocery store.
  • Mustard oil, all the things that you're familiar with.
  • Also, again, great question Amber.
  • And great answer because it looks like - and of course I've talked to Amarnath before -
  • It's not surprising to me that your answer is the answer
  • that it is because you've spent your time
  • investing in relationships.
  • And now is the time that you reaped from it.
  • So that your employees became he biggest support.
  • That's great. Any other questions?
  • I do have one more question.
  • It's a quick one.
  • Dharitri was asking about consumer-based behavior.
  • And one of my friends who's from Calcutta lives in Arizona.
  • And she said there is no dal.
  • There are no pulses, There's no lentils in my desi store.
  • And I suspect that all the white people
  • have gone in there to get them, because they keep so well.
  • My family has been surviving on dal.
  • And so I wondered if you noticed any shift
  • not just in consumer behavior but in who your customers were
  • during this time.
  • Yes I did but not so much in the dal, especially in Seattle.
  • But we did it in the chicken and the mutton.
  • Especially with the meat market in the mainstream.
  • It dried up a little bit.
  • At that time we saw a lot of people come in
  • and shop in our meat department.
  • And far as the lentils and rice, the wheat flour--
  • not much of a difference.
  • But we did notice most of the mainstream people coming
  • in for chicken, some haldi.
  • You know the ones that comment in the social media about how
  • to increase your immunity.
  • So those items.
  • The kind of people were coming.
  • Turmeric is very cool right now.
  • even Whole Foods-- turmeric try this, turmeric tea.
  • Turmeric is the newest--
  • [? yogurt ?]
  • Right.
  • So we noticed this stuff.
  • Yeah.
  • Thank you so much.
  • I really enjoyed learning from you so much.
  • Thank you.
  • Thank you so much, Amarnath.
  • Thank you Ruth and Amber for joining.
  • Yeah thank you so much for giving me
  • this much opportunity.
  • Sorry I also meant to-- is there anything
  • else you want to share, please.
  • No.
  • That's wonderful.
  • I'm glad you gave me the opportunity
  • to tell my story of our lives.
  • OK.
  • Thank you so much everyone.
  • Athena.
  • Thank you.
  • Thank you everybody.
  • Oh, thank you so much everyone for joining us today
  • another awesome interview with Stories to Tell.
  • I always learn so much.
  • And again I'm so grateful for the experience.
  • Thank you to you both that was wonderful.
  • And thanks for giving us your time
  • today and wonderful questions.
  • We're grateful for these great questions that come in.
  • Thanks and we have another week coming up
  • with more great interviews so I hope you can join us.
  • Thanks so much, everybody and have a great afternoon.
  • Thanks everyone.
  • Thank you.