EVEN IF you’re not originally from the sub-continent of India, even if you’ve never really loved Indian food, I know you’ll find something you like or want or need if you visit the Kiran Indian Grocery, located on Cross Creek Blvd. in the Cross Creek Center plaza, next to Saffron Indian Cuisine.
The one thing I know for sure is that you won’t find better people than the owners, Kiran and Sudeer (photo on this page; I won’t even try to spell their last name correctly).
Although Kiran is the one who is almost always at the store, she gives credit to Sudeer, a software engineer who handles the books for the popular, albeit tiny (1,200-sq.-ft.) grocery for being “my support system, my partner.”
Theirs is a story of true love so unique that Sudeer wrote a novel (his first) about their life together called No Big Deal. If you think the Indian people are boring because they’re usually so polite and proper, read this book. Sudeer approaches their often difficult life together with the same genuine sweetness and sense of humor he and his wife always show in person.
What About The Store?
Kiran opened her first store in the Pebble Creek Collection in 2003. She moved it to E. Fowler Ave. in 2010, but found a new location where more of her original New Tampa customers could more easily visit on Cross Creek Blvd. in 2014.
“Really, all of my customers who still live here have followed me wherever I have opened,” says Kiran. “I love my customers and always remember the products they purchase, even if it’s been years since I’ve seen them.”
In other words, if you previously were a customer at either of Kiran’s previous two locations, don’t be surprised if she remembers you by what you bought at her store. She is an absolute expert at knowing what products to stock for her customers, which is no small feat, as the people in every state in India don’t just have different cuisines, they actually speak entirely different languages from each other. That means that Kiran has to learn enough of these other languages to stock as many of the products as possible that people from every part of the world’s second most populous country (as well as from Pakistan and Middle eastern countries, too; she even has an assortment of Halal meats) will purchase.
“I feel a little like a doctor,” Kiran says. “I have had to learn enough of these other languages to know how to stock many of the same items made by different companies because my customers won’t buy the same products from different parts of India than the ones they grew up with.”
In other words, if you’re looking for Masala spice mixes, teas and even rice, Kiran crams about 8,000 items into her little store, including multiple brand names and options from virtually every part of India to satisfy her customers.
I’m not knowledgeable enough about India or the different cuisines favored by each area to know anything about what to buy at Kiran Indian Grocery. The good news is that Kiran does. Every time I visited the store to research this story, she gave me different items to sample, from fresh cilantro, Indian radishes and cucumbers to some of the most delicious chocolate and cookies you’ll find anywhere (more on all of that sweet stuff below).
I consider myself to be relatively adventurous when it comes to trying different foods, but I’ve never been partial to any kind of curry or chutney, which of course, are among the staples of many Indian cuisines. To date, I have enjoyed the frozen veggie and chicken-and-veggie samosas Kiran has given me to sample, and her fresh fruits and vegetables (some of which are organic) are always outstanding.
I have brought back coconut milk, mango juices and items like the peanut chikki bars (sort of like peanut brittle), spicy cashews, pickles and surprisingly salty dried banana chips for everyone in the office to sample and I have enjoyed the unique lower-glycemic-index basmati rice Kiran suggested for those who have or are trying to avoid getting diabetes.
But, there’s no doubt that my favorite items at Kiran Indian Grocery are the Indian and British versions of such standards as Kit-Kat and Cadbury bars, which definitely taste better than their American counterparts, as well as chocolate wafer cookies and sandwich cookies known as “bourbon cremes,” which look like rectangular Oreos but taste a hundred times better. Yes, if you have a sophisticated sweet tooth, Kiran Indian Grocery is the place for you.
Kiran also stocks a variety of beauty products that Indian people use at the front of the store.
Speaking Of Sweet Things…
Before I ever stepped into her current store, I already had started getting to know Kiran because she is a member of the same Rotary Club of New Tampa Noon that I belong to as well.
But, while I try to help our Rotary Club by promoting its events, Kiran actually lives the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self” every day.
Kiran’s high school teacher is a member of a Rotary Club in India that has been trying to help children from her area of India who have a particular skin condition they get from often unsanitary conditions at their school. Kiran has gotten our Rotary Club to buy plates, tablecloths, napkins and glasses for the school as an international service project and is using her own money build benches for the children, so they don’t have to sit on the floor at school.
“I tell my customers that they helped pay for those benches,” Kiran says with her always-sweet-smile. “I couldn’t do it without them spending money here.”
She also provides ongoing financial support for the Humane Society of Tampa, to make sure the animals kept at the shelter are properly bathed and have their shots. “I tell them to just charge my credit card when they need something,” she says. “I just love animals.”
Kiran Indian Grocery (10042 Cross Creek Blvd.) is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. every day (until 9 p.m. on Fri.-Sat.). For info, call (813) 994-6202 or see the ad on pg. 42.