Story behind the sweets, savoury shop

Arun Kumar in front of the Vallabh Bhai Pte Co Ltd in Nausori. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

The historical background of Vallabh Bhai and the taste of its sweets and savoury desserts have a special place in the hearts of every Nausori resident.

The mouth-watery laddoos, multi-coloured barfees, creatively designed pedas, and thin crispy jalebis displayed at the Vallabh Bhai & Co Ltd shop do attract people’s attention.

The shop began its operation in the 1950s when two brothers, Magan Bhai and Vallabh Bhai, decided to test their sweet-making skills which were passed on to them from their parents, who came from India.

Shop owner Arun Kumar said his father and uncle established the business and they were focused on supporting their extended family through the income they earned.

“After Vallabh Bhai passed away, my father, Magan Bhai continued the business to feed the 15 members in our household,” he said.

He said they started from a shop located in the arcade where ANZ Bank currently sat in the Nausori Town.

He said the sweets were known because of their best taste and good quality.

Mr Kumar said the destruction of the shop in a fire paused their operations.

“After our fi rst shop burned down, it was difficult for my father as they had to start again.

“We later moved to a new location and our shop was situated opposite the old Nausori bus stand, however, that also did not last long because it was also burned down on January 11, 1975.

“Enduring the losses from the second fi re was very hard for my family.

“In the second shop we had stationery and tailoring things to recover from the first fi re, we started selling stationeries and tailoring, however, everything was destroyed in the fi re.

“After losing two shops in fire, we opened a shop beside MaxValu in Nausori along with which we had a sweet cart.

“Every morning, we used to push our cart, full of sweets from our home to the crossing area,
near the old market.

“After spending more than 10 years at that location, we had to move because of the construction of a hardware shop.”

He said the family managed to open a shop at the old Nausori bus stand and they had been operating there for more than 30 years.

“Later on, our sweet cart was also closed down so we came to the old bus stand and served there until the new bus stand was built.

“My father and brother Mr Janti Lal used to look after that business before I took over.

“Even after my father passed away, he used to look after our shop at the old bus stand until he went to New Zealand in 1997.”

Currently, they have two shops, one is situated at the new bus stand and the other at the new Nausori Municipal Market.

“We shifted to this location in 2015 and this year will mark six years of our service in this new location.”

Over the years, the shop has stood strong withstanding all the disastrous floods, political changes in the country, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

“After the fi re, we had to suffer the damages caused by cyclones and floods such as Cyclone Kina.

“During Cyclone Kina, all our groceries bought in bulk to make sweets were damaged and we used to walk in the floodwater trying to collect our tanks of oil.

“ We had no gates and we were living in a wooden house so when the flood hit, everything in the bulk started floating.

“Hurricane Bebe also gave us a tough time as our house was damaged and we had to start over from the beginning again.”

Mr Kumar said like all other businesses, they had suffered a lot, however, they continued to learn and provide service.

“Over the years, we have added new services in our business such as having a video library between 1991 and 1992, selling stationery, tailoring and doing photography.”

He said he made sweets every morning to ensure fresh products are provided to its customers.

“I make sweets in the morning where my son and a few workers help me.

“After me, this business will be controlled by my son so I am teaching him how to make sweets so that it is passed to the next generation.”

He said they kept their prices low so everyone could afford it.

“We are not selling the sweets in kilograms because it will be very expensive for people and they won’t be able to buy it.

“We sell it in quantity so that people, especially the school students, can enjoy it.”

The 58-year-old said they would have to assess the status of their business as it had also been affected during this pandemic period.

“This pandemic has decreased our sales because no events are happening and people do not buy a lot of sweets.

“We have to close down early because of the restrictions in place and when we open, we can only make fewer sales which are just people who are walking by so our sales have decreased by 40 to 50 per cent. This business started for the sake of feeding our family and now we are continuing it since we use the income to survive on.”

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