Flavor Indian Cuisine has outgrown the location at 605 Main Ave. and moved to a new location at 501 Main Ave. where they plan to reopen this month..
For the past three years, Flavor Indian Restaurant and International Grocery Store has operated out of a building complex shared with Moriarty Apartments. The location was less than ideal because the storefront was the parking lot shared with the Goodwill.
“As in most service industry businesses, your location and visibility to potential customers is very important,” Dan Huntington, owner and chef of Flavor, said. “Our location the past three years has not had good exposure, as it doesn’t face any major road. A lot of Brookings residents still don’t know that we exist.”
The new storefront on Main Street is across from the post office and Nick’s Hamburger Shop, giving plenty of exposure to potential customers. The location was previously owned by Sioux River Bicycle & Fitness before they moved locations to 305 Fifth St.
“The new building is roughly double the size of the old,” Huntington said. “The new grocery store will be on two levels, having an upstairs mezzanine, and the restaurant is going from a seating capacity of 42 to roughly 80.”
The new location also will be accompanied by a new name, Flavor Indian & Asian Fare because it accurately encompasses the services provided, Huntington said.
Many people in Brookings don’t know Flavor exists because it was started seven years ago by Bhavana Patel, who is from India.
“She only ran the grocery store to start. Then, at the urging of friends and family, she opened the restaurant about a year before I purchased it from her,” Huntington said. “Her husband, Dilip, took a new job in Chicago, and she needed to sell the business to be able to move with him.”
Flavor was built around friends and family, and that aspect hasn’t changed as Huntington’s wife and children work alongside him helping in the restaurant and store.
“Family is very important to the Huntingtons, and it has been cool to see them incorporate their entire family into the business,” said Sami Anderson, Flavor waitress. “When customers come in they get the opportunity to be loved by the entire Huntington family.”
Customers often get a cheerful hello and friendly smile while serving their most popular dish, curry chicken.
“Many people think that Indian food is always really hot and spicy. This doesn’t have to be the case at Flavor,” Huntington said. “We ask our customers how much heat they would like in their entrees, using a scale from one to five. We like to say that a three is jalapeno spicy and a five is habanero spicy.”
George Jibin said, “When it comes to a small town like Brookings, it is the best place to eat traditional Indian food.”
In providing a menu filled with traditional Indian food and a restaurant stocked with groceries from different countries, Flavor serves as many international student’s primary grocery store because they can buy fresh produce native to their countries.
“The store has Indian, Korean, Chinese, Middle Eastern and African food that they provide, allowing people from other countries to come in and find things from home that they can’t find anywhere else,” Anderson said.
“Flavor is the only restaurant/grocery store in Brookings that offers foods or groceries from our native lands,” said Sami Shrokana, a graduate student attending South Dakota State University. “I am from Bangladesh and whenever we cook food, we are always in need of spices. I personally go to Flavor mostly to buy spices and lentils.”
The variety of foods offered in the store attracts people from many different countries creating a mixing of cultures that is rare and unique.
“If you stand for a minute in the aisles of the store, you will hear a lot of different languages and dialects. As a nearly universal rule in every culture, food is something that really brings people together,” Huntington said. “I have learned so much about the amazing diversity of the world by talking to my customers. It has been eye opening to hear things first hand from someone who actually lives there, and has experienced things like Islam, ISIS, poverty, North Korea and the persecution of Christians.”
In the days to come the Huntington family, friends, and employees have a lot of work to do as the process of moving the restaurant and store will be a lot of work.
Anderson described the biggest challenge to be moving everything into the new building in a timely manner. The grocery store opened in early December but Huntington said the restaurant will take a bit longer as they are adding new items to the menu and have more to do, yet plan to reopen the restaurant this month.
“I’d be lying if I said it was easy being an entrepreneur. It involves a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but working side-by-side with my wife and children has been a blessing as we are in this together,” Huntington said.