The grocery store that is second to naan


Caden Bargowski

Rakesh Handa is the owner of the local Indian store, Annapoorna, located on Neil Street. Handa became the owner in 2005 after moving from New Delhi.

By Fiza Dahra, Staff Writer

Every morning at 10 a.m., Rakesh Handa opens up Annapoorna, one of the only Indian grocery stores in Champaign-Urbana that offers the Indian community a place to purchase food and ingredients imported from their homeland.

Annapoorna opened in 2003, and Handa, the current owner, took over in 2005. Handa had moved to Champaign-Urbana from New Delhi, India, that same year.

“I saw potential in the business, hence why I took over, and I wanted to offer something to the Indian community in Champaign-Urbana,” Handa said. “As of now, I do not plan on expanding Annapoorna, and I wish to continue helping people taste good Indian food.”

The University has many international students from India. Annapoorna offers both the C-U community and students a chance to taste authentic Indian flavors.

“Annapoorna offers the community of Champaign-Urbana an opportunity to taste the food we have back in India,” Handa said. “From dosas to samosas, we have it all.”

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Though Handa enjoys life in Champaign-Urbana, he talks about his life back in New Delhi, India.

“I miss having my social circle and family around back in India,” Handa said. “I try to visit India once a year to meet my friends and family in New Delhi.”

Nevertheless, he said he enjoys the small, close-knit community in Champaign-Urbana and how it is a quiet town, unlike New Delhi.

“Champaign-Urbana has everything that an individual needs,” Handa said.

Handa also mentioned how the Indian Cultural Society of Champaign-Urbana hosts multiple events annually to celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali.

“Having a community that celebrates all the festivals we celebrate back home in India makes us feel closer to home,” Handa said. “Due to the pandemic, a lot of the events hosted by the Indian Cultural Society of Champaign-Urbana had to be canceled or postponed in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Handa explained how his favorite part of his job is that he gets to interact with different people daily.

“Interacting with people, coming to know them, and then helping people to eat some good Indian food is something I enjoy doing,” Handa said. 

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