Under New, Friendly Management

No matter the context, it’s difficult to immigrate to a new country. However if it just so happens that your landing ends up being in the heart of Wolseley, you’ve gotta have done something right. The Kapoor family moved from India to Winnipeg in April 2019. Originally on a business immigration visa, Monissh Kapoor and his family chose to buy what was known at the time as Barchet’s Grocery Store two years after arriving in Winnipeg.

After rebranding to Barchet’s Foods, Kapoor says there were a lot of reasons it made sense for his family to take over the store. Partly because the property provided not only a business but came with an attached house, and would be a job that wouldn’t be inflammatory for Kapoor’s fibromyalgia - something he was only recently diagnosed with.

However, owning a convenience store in this day and age does have its pitfalls. “I was skeptical of opening and running a grocery store,” Kapoor said. “[Smaller] convenience stores are not doing well nowadays because of the competition with the big sharks in the market. Their volumes are so big we can't compete with them at any cost. We try to keep our cost down by buying on deals and selling at a reasonable price to our customers, but we cannot compete with them.”

However, Kapoor says that small convenience stores like Barchet’s Foods are still arguably a better option for locals to shop at, compared to larger grocery stores. Kapoor says that more frequent, local, and smaller shopping trips not only save money on gas but often cuts down on food waste (and therefore money waste) by getting what you want closer to when you want it. This means that shoppers are less likely to buy things they don’t need in comparison to when they go to a big grocery store.

While running a food store in Winnipeg is not something Kapoor would have seen himself doing ten years ago, he says that he has fond memories of the corner stores where he grew up as a kid. Kapoor has made it a goal of his to try and provide those same memories for the community and kids around him now. “When I was a small kid, I used to go to the convenience store near our house back home in India,” Kapoor said. “The gentleman used to always give me some candy or something, always.”

“Sometimes I didn't have money, and then still he would give me something or other,” Kapoor recalls. “And I've kept that legacy [going]: my customers come here, the small kids who come here, I always give them a lollipop to go… So they're happy with us. I like the smile on their faces. That lollipop doesn't mean anything to us. The smile they give after they get something from the store, and the kind of rapport we have with the kids… It's all of the world to us.”

This connection to the surrounding community is something that Kapoor is grateful has established itself so strongly.

“Oh, they're like family to us,” Kapoor said. “I mean, when we see regular customers coming to the store, we’re so happy to see them. They have almost become friends now. In the holiday time, [some of Kapoor’s regulars] used to make some banana cake at home or some other cake at home… They came by to give me a sample and are so friendly to us. So that's a very good, uh, relationship we have developed with the customers.”

Something that Kappor has been struggling with is coming up with more reasons for people to visit the store. He’s proud of the bitcoin machine that has recently been installed but feels uncomfortable at the lucrative prospect of selling Marijuana, based on how new he is to simply running the food store. “The earlier owner said [that the] wrong kind of customers can come to the store [if they start selling marijuana]. So I really don't know.”

Kapoor will be the first to admit he still has a lot to learn about running the store. However, he has come a long way from when they first started. “I didn't have an idea of how to run this grocery store,” Kapoor recalls. “The first week, I cried… it was so overwhelming for me to understand what should be sold in the store.”

“Because I was a newcomer, I never had an idea of what the local community wanted here,” Kapoor said. “Plus the earlier owner was Korean and his English was not very understandable. I had a tough time learning then… Slowly, slowly, slowly, I'm getting the hang of it. I'm not perfect even today. But I'm getting the hang of it. I mean, I'm happy that I can at least do my best to give the customer the best I can.”

With Kapoor knowing now what products the community wants, he feels confident in being able to serve the community the best he can.

Barchet’s Food Store is located at 866 Westminster Avenue, at the Arlington crossroads.

Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf