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Spice Indian Mart
Food & Family with Bharat and Priti Shrestha

By Sarah Hodges


I turn the corner onto Kalākaua Avenue, my aunt close by my side. She excitedly tells me there’s a new Indian shop in her neighborhood, pointing up to the storefront with orange garland decorations that we’re approaching. A large banner along the building wall reads: ‘Spice Indian Mart, Now Open.’ As we get closer I peer through the large windows and see clean, organized aisles, a well-lit shop, simple yet welcoming. I gesture to my aunt with a playful smile, “Let’s go in!” We walk through the shop, exploring each aisle.

When I arrive home, I open the bottle of rosewater that I bought at the shop and add a spoonful to my tea. The gentle flavors bring me comfort, a feeling of hominess. I’m filled with joy later in the week as I discover the story behind Spice Indian Mart, speaking with its owner Bharat Shrestha.

Bharat arrived in Hawai’i from Nepal 11 years ago. With his sister Saleena already in Hawai’i, he had a connection to the islands. Five years later, his wife Priti joined them. Bharat began working at restaurants in Hawai’i, eventually opening his own restaurant with his wife in 2021, called Spice Up, House of Indian Cuisine.

With this restaurant, Bharat was able to connect much more widely to the Indian, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani people on O’ahu. Local customers also came, enjoying the delicious home-style dishes, so much so that people would sometimes inquire about the recipes and ask where they could find ingredients. Bharat also got to know fellow restaurant owners, especially of Indian, Nelapese, and Pakistani cuisines. They would share in the challenges of unpredictable delivery times and price increases of restaurant supplies and bulk ingredients. An idea arose within him.

After some research and investigation, Bharat decided he and his wife would start a second business. Last month, they opened the doors of Spice Indian Mart, on the makua (mountain) end of Kalākaua Avenu in Honolulu. Here, people in Hawai’i can find affordable Nepalese and South Asian ingredients, foods, bulk herbs, halal meats, Nepalese pickles, candies, specialty drinks, and much more. A plentiful array of foods you can’t find anywhere else on O’ahu.

Bharat shares that his intention with this shop at the moment is to help people get the merchandise they need. “I tried to keep ingredients at a reasonable price,” says Bharat. He’s found various companies to ship needed items from continental US, Nepal and other South Asian countries. With Spice Indian Mart, other restaurant owners are now able to get their ingredients in Hawai’i at an affordable cost, without the long wait time for shipping.

Bharat remarks, “The people who work for us from Nepal, India, or Bangladesh, when they work at the store or restaurant they don’t work as employees but as family. That is so satisfying. I didn’t feel that where I worked before. I don’t know how it happened, it just happened. They are all sisters and brothers now.” Bharat has found that same ethos flowing into their new business. In fact, his actual sister also works with them, mostly in the restaurant.

Everyone who works at Spice India Mart cares about the place as if it’s their own shop or their family’s shop. I could feel this welcoming atmosphere when I walked in.

“It’s been almost one month of being open,” Bharat explains. “I didn’t have time to do any advertisement, but word of mouth has done a lot. Most of the Indian, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani people know about this place. Customers who pass by are spreading the word. Restaurants are coming here for their bulk items.”

Bharat is very happy to be supporting his community with this shop. He continues to ask customers what other products and ingredients they need, working to get those to his shop. I can hear the joy and warmth in his voice as he shares about this new endeavor. Their two businesses and six-month-old child keep Bharat and his wife very busy, and yet somehow they are managing to bring so much to the community.

Spice Indian Mart
1401 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826
Open every day from 9 am – 8 pm



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This post is also available in: English (英語)