In 1964, G.L. Soni was an engineering graduate student, newly arrived in Fargo, N.D., from southern India’s Kerala state and shocked to find two feet of snow on the ground and no tandoori anywhere on the horizon. It would be years before the Beatles embraced Ravi Shankar, and mainstream America was clueless when it came to Indian cuisine. “Nobody even knew about yogurt,” Mr. Soni recalls.
And like most Indian men, he was clueless himself. Meals had always just appeared before him, cooked unseen by female or servant hands. “I never knew a coriander from a cumin seed,” he says. “I didn’t know a spice from a lentil.”
Somehow, he and a couple of fellow expatriates mastered ingredients sold in Fargo stores, like yellow split peas, well enough to survive till graduation. A civil engineering job brought Mr. Soni to New York, but it was his continuing hunger for the taste of home that drove him to create House of Spices, one of the city’s first stores devoted to Indian food products, with his wife and brother in 1970.
Demographic and cultural revolutions have propelled the store into success. House of Spices has since become a wholesale/manufacturer which include multiple distribution centers across the country. Although the business has and continues to expand rapidly, it is still family owned and home based out of the NYC metro area.
Today, the next generation of the Laxmi family carries the torch, spreading Indian food culture from coast to coast with 12 major distribution centers across North America.
Children of G.L., Neil and Amrapali work as team dealing with every problem that a growing business faces. What they enjoy most is developing new products and working closely with their chefs. They taste and test new products again and again until they are satisfied. Then, they pass them on to the whole HOS team for a second opinion. But Sobhana gets the final say-mom always knows best!