Indian cuisine can be intimidating. That’s what Revathi Chillapalli, owner of Deepam India Deli and Food Market, discovered when she first opened the hybrid deli/grocery 14 years ago.
“Today, I’m seeing a lot more non-Indians come in to try and enjoy Indian food,” Chillapalli explains. “When we first opened that wasn’t the case. (People)didn’t know what it was, they thought it was greasy, oily, spicy. . . we are none of the above. Our food is like homestyle cooking.”
Attracting new customers
Deepam carries a large selection of prepared curries, rices, and other dishes, prepared fresh every day— “we never open a can or a bag, everything you see here is hand cut”, says Chillapalli. As well, they offer a wide array of spices, ready-to-eat foods, snacks, condiments, and fresh produce and the largest selection of teas in the area. The wide collection of groceries and an impressive deli case has attracted the community, forging regular customers over the years.
“People come here for various reasons. Some of them come for health reasons, because Indian spices all have health benefits, and they also come for advice,” says Chillapalli, adding that vegetarians and vegans are drawn to the cuisine’s vegetarian dishes. “My customers talk to me about how to prepare the food and I love to help them find what works for their specific needs. It’s not just a store, there’s a lot of interaction going on here. I’m so proud of our individualized service.”
Chillapalli frequently fields calls from homecooks attempting new recipes as well as those new to the cuisine. She is more than happy to offer advice. “The first thing I do with someone who is new is spend about 15 minutes with them… explaining the basic ingredients, the spices we use, and what each dish contains. Then I offer to let them taste. We explain, we let them explore, and then they buy. We haven’t lost a single customer that way and it’s how we build the business.”
Fresh fare, high standards
With a brisk deli carry-out business Deepam has grown beyond individual or family meals. With a wholesale license from the Ohio Agricultural Department, they also supply local hospitals. To keep up that license Deepam is required to meet a higher standard of cleanliness and health than just a restaurant. “So far, so good,” says Chillapalli.
For those looking to enjoy a meal at home, both meat-eaters and vegans will not be disappointed by the fresh fare: “People talk about the farm-to-table approach as a new emphasis, but we’ve been doing that for centuries. Ever since we opened it has been farm-to-table. We always support the city by doing business locally and hiring local people. It’s all local and fresh here.”
Care to cook?
Chillapalli has offered regular cooking classes for those curious about the cuisine. Overwhelmed by interested prospective students, she now offers the option to schedule your own class. Up to ten people — at $35 per person, which includes the food, recipes and class instruction — can schedule a Thursday evening of cooking, learning, and, eating.
7406 W. Central Ave.