Kiran Indian Grocery, located on Cross Creek Blvd. in the Cross Creek Center plaza, has been a mainstay at this constantly-changing plaza since 2014. Before that, owner Kiran Vanthenapalli owned a store (from 2003-06; and an Indian restaurant, too) on E. Fowler Ave. and, from 2006-10, her store was in the Pebble Creek Collection on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd.
That means that some of her beloved customers have known and trusted Kiran and her family and staff to provide their (predominantly) Indian and Pakistani spices, coffees and teas, frozen foods, meats, snacks, sweets and even hair care and other cosmetic products (and so much more) for almost 20 years.
And of course, Kiran is perhaps best known for her amazing selection of fresh produce, with so many Indian specialty items I’ve never tasted (or even seen) before at prices that she says she knows, “no one can beat. I do my research — and no one beats my prices on produce.”
For example, she can describe the difference between coconuts used for Indian prayers and those that are meant for eating, and of course, stocks both in the store.
But actually, saying that Kiran is best known for her produce isn’t 100-percent accurate. Kiran Indian Grocery is actually best-known for Kiran herself, something that no other store of any kind can boast.
Not only can Kiran tell you where each and every one of her thousands of available items are located, she also can tell you the prices for each — all off the top of her head. That’s kind of amazing because she has so many different items and many different brands of the same types of products — e.g., she has as many different “masala” seasonings and brands as most grocery stores have beers — crammed into a store that somehow seems both much bigger and much smaller than it actually is because it offers such an amazing variety of products.
“I can’t do my own inventory on a computer,” Kiran says. “My computer is right here (pointing to her head).”
But, Kiran’s staffers also are knowledgeable. It’s just pretty much impossible for anyone else to have memorized the prices, sizes and exact location within the store of so many different items — many of which aren’t even marked with prices.
But, if Kiran tells you what the price is on any item, rest assured that when that item is rung up at the check-out counter, the exact price she quoted will pop up.
Also stored in Kiran’s computer brain are the favorite items of every one of her regular customers. She re-orders many items based on when she knows the customers who regularly purchase those items will be back in to buy them.
“I don’t like disappointing anyone,” she says with her usual sweet smile. “If I am running low on an item you always get, I’ll hold enough of that item for you,” so you can stay stocked until she gets her next shipment of it. And, “If I only have three left, and I don’t know how soon I’ll get more, I’ll tell you to buy two of them.”
And, if Kiran does somehow run out of one of your favorites, she’ll suggest an alternative that you can try that you might end up liking better.
A Love Of Animals
Kiran and her husband Sudeer have always also served not only their community, but people — and even animals — in need around the world.
She has been involved — at least since opening her store in Cross Creek — with the Tampa Bay chapter of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and she has donated fresh produce, rice and really anything the local chapter has needed because she is such a strong believer that people need pets and that so many of the pets in shelters can and do help individuals and families who need the kind of companionship and love that only a dog or cat can provide.
“I love the SPCA,” Kiran says. “It feels good to help them because they help so many people…and animals.”
When Covid-19 hit back in March 2020 and I started going through issues with my printer, Kiran was probably the first (but thankfully, not the only) advertiser to call me and say, “What do you need? How can I help?
She thought I said that I was going out of business. “I started crying,” she said. “I told (her husband) Sudeer, ‘We have to help our brother.’”
Even though I thankfully never got to that point and have no Indian heritage whatsoever, Kiran has been calling me her brother for years now. And, even though she seems to treat everyone who stops into the store like a member of her family, I refer to her as my sister, too. You just can’t fake her kind of genuine goodness and compassion for others.
“Gary, my brother, I’m so sorry that I’m out of your favorite chocolate bars right now,” she said to me on my most recent visit. “I also had to order (my wife) Jannah’s favorite tea. I’ll let you know when all of that comes in.”
But, it’s a big compliment to me because Kiran does also have an amazing family of which she is equally proud. Sudeer is a software engineer and their older son Satvik graduated from medical school at USF and is now a clinical psychiatrist, while younger son Sahit currently is in med school and plans to become a psychiatrist as well.
Another case in point about how Kiran treats everyone is that, when people check out at her store, she or her cashier will put coupons from other local businesses in the customers’ shopping bags. She has helped most of the Indian restaurants (as well as the new Gorkhali Kitchen Nepalese restaurant now located next to her store) and other businesses owned by people from India and Pakistan in our area this way and she says that she would be happy to do it for other businesses, too.
“We’re all in this together,” she says.
And of course, whether you like or want to cook Indian food or not, if you’re a fan of delicious chocolate cookies or other sweet and/or salty treats, or you want the best prices in town on a most unique selection of fresh produce items, you owe it to yourself to visit my sister Kiran.
Kiran Indian Grocery is located at 10042 Cross Creek Blvd. and is open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, call (813) 994-6202, search “Kiran Indian Grocery” on Facebook or see the ad on pg. 34.