Apna Bazar Cash & Carry
Owner: Khadag Singh
Owner: Khadag Singh
Location: 1700 Sugartree Plz, Edison, NJ
Photographed: June 2020
There is an approximately three quarter of a mile stretch of Oak Tree Road between Edison and Iselin (an unincorporated community within Woodbridge) that has no fewer than six Indian and South Asian grocery stores along it. We're starting here at the farthest west one, although we will be returning to Oak Tree even farther to the west out in South Plainfield later. I must say going into this post that I have quite a few unknowns about this store. The 13,000 square foot store appears to have opened in 2005 as an Apna Bazar Cash & Carry before having a grand reopening in June 2019 following a renovation and a rebrand as Apna Bazar Farmer Market, but that name change is not reflected anywhere outside or inside (or at least was not at the time of my visit almost a year later; we see the storefront with only one lonely faded sign where there used to be a large one extending across the whole storefront). There are many Apna Bazar stores nationwide -- as well as in India -- but I have a hard time telling for sure which are related since Apna Bazar simply means "our own market" and is therefore a common name for Indian grocery stores in the United States.
I had some surprises here on the inside after doing my research. We enter to produce, refrigerated items, and prepared foods in a grand aisle at the left side of the store. Surprisingly, almost everything we see here was installed new in 2019 -- that includes fixtures, flooring, ceiling, and lights. They are therefore much newer than I assumed, as they are not particularly notable in any way. From what I can gather from posted photos, the prepared foods counter in the back corner takes up the former frozen department, and the produce department has been expanded a bit.
Not so impressed with front-end management here. Two of six registers open with a line of customers reaching the back wall of the store and wrapping around to the side wall, while three managers stood around near the entrance...
A note on what we can expect here and at the next upcoming five stores. The Indian supermarkets of New Jersey do not typically belong to the familiar cooperatives that Latin and Caribbean stores favor (Krasdale, Key Food, and so on) -- or any cooperative at all. That means that (1) they tend to have small, if any, selections of mainstream American products, and (2) that they do not use a storebrand, nor run a circular.
Along the back wall, we find frozen foods in cases probably installed new in the 2019 remodel. Hard to tell whether the grocery shelving was replaced.
It was a bit hard for me to tell exactly what's what here, especially since I am generally unfamiliar with Indian foods, but it seemed that the front wall of the store to the right of checkouts was stocked with sale items. We can see the beginning of the expansion, which forms an L-shape, at the far end of the store.
Moving into the grocery aisles.
Though the selection is mostly imported items, that's not to say mainstream groceries -- like ketchup, on the right -- aren't stocked here.
Moving into the expansion, where the grocery aisles run parallel to the front wall of the store (perpendicular to the other grocery aisles), we find nonfoods, kitchenware, and bulk items -- especially rice. A lot of rice.
As a random side note, in the summer of 2020 I did a lot of cooking at home for myself and tried some new rice recipes. While I'm not a chef, I can tell you that lightly toasting whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and cumin seed in an oiled saucepan before adding the rice and water (then of course removing them at the end) is delicious. Anyway, we are wrapping up this Apna Bazar but tomorrow we're moving just diagonally across the street to the next Indian supermarket in a former A&P on The Market Report!