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TJ Singh and his wife Jasmine Pannu recently opened India Mart with a vision to make Indian cuisine readily available in Bellingham. This specialty store offers produce, sweets, spices, and other groceries from India, Fiji, and southeast Asia.

The shop opened on January 18, 2024, but the couple had been at work for well over a year to make that happen, taking time to best understand the needs of Bellingham — a community they felt had a lot of availability to serve. “International cuisine, Indian food, is growing,” says Pannu. “There’s so many different items. My husband spent the last year looking at locations, looking at areas, making sure it was big enough, making sure we had accessibility.”

Previously been featured in a WhatcomTalk round-up of area spice stores and international markets, India Mart continuously seeks to expand its selection.

“We’re always listening to our customers,” Pannu says. “If someone says, ‘I’m looking for X, Y, and Z,’ we keep a list and talk to our vendors: “Can you help us get this?’”

India Mart is located off Telegraph Road, near the Guide Meridian and Bellis Fair Mall area. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

India Mart’s Selection

India Mart offers entire aisles of produce, noodles, flours, rices, spices and teas, and both packaged and freshly-baked sweets. Other items include health and beauty products and traditional Indian wedding supplies.

“We have an incredibly wide range of items we try to carry,” says Pannu. “People are looking for different brands, and we look to carry those — we’re looking for specific ingredients in them, for different sizing. A lot of Indian families tend to be large, so they might want a larger size, whereas someone else might just be looking for a smaller bottle.”

As Bellingham’s Indian population grows, India Mart provides many with a taste of home and other residents with opportunities to expand their culinary range.

“Indian food is so variable in its geographical scope,” Pannu says. “So we’re thinking about the wide range of products that serve not only the North Indian community, which is what we are, but South Indians as well, and trying to make sure that we can get that for them.”

India Mart’s dessert case offers fresh baked goods available in to-go boxes. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Some of the owners’ favorite offerings include dosa batter, gluten-free roti, and the sweets counter, which includes various forms of burfi, gulab jamun, and more.

International and Local Influences

Singh and Pannu saw the opportunity to open an Indian grocery in Bellingham following years of experience in both India and Washington state.

“It’s a family-run business, so it’s my husband and me and our team on the floor,” says Pannu. “We have people who help us with inventory management and our family helps us get fresh produce two to three times a week, — everyone has a role.”

Within a few months, India Mart has received community support for its customer service and dedication to supplying requested items.

Behind the counter at India Mart, paintings and other displayed items are also available for sale. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

“It’s phenomenal,” Pannu says. “People are so amazed and excited to see the vast array of spices we have. They’re ground, they’re whole, they’re aromatic. They serve an entire area that I think wasn’t being served before, [with] spices you can’t easily find elsewhere.”

Pannu says the most rewarding part of running the store has been the feedback from customers. “People are always so excited, they walk out with a smile on their face,” she says. “We get Instagram messages from people all the time, sharing that we’re introducing them to a new food. And food and eating is culture, right, it’s what we do: we sit together with our friends and family. Our hope is that they’ll introduce their friends and family to [this cuisine] as well.”

New Additions

Customers can stay up-to-date on specials and news through India Mart’s Instagram page.

“Customers can learn about the products we carry,” says Pannu. “And they can use [Instagram] as a form of communication with us. We try to post recipes on there, and they can really just learn about Indian food and where to get started.”

In addition to grocery and produce items, India Mart also sells housewares, cookware, traditional wedding items, and other essentials. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

India Mart’s team has planned to take growth “one day at a time,” says Pannu, meeting requests as they arise.

“One of our core visions is being incredibly customer-focused and customer-centric,” Pannu says. “We want to make sure we have a strong baseline and we’re able to meet the needs of our customers. Once we feel like we’re in a place where we’re able to do that, then the world is our oyster.”

As India Mart grows, they also plan to expand their community outreach.

“At some point, we want to have some customer donation programs and really work to make sure we’re supporting the community that we live, work, and play in,” says Pannu.

You can visit India Mart at 193 Telegraph Road, follow them on Instagram, or call 360.208.0800 for more information.

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