A family makes Indian food a convenience at Sohi Food Store

For Muskan Sohi, his family’s story of convenience store Kalispell and the Indian cuisine they serve is simple.

She and her parents, Ranjit Singh and Jasbir Kaur, moved to the Washington area in October 2021 and took over the Conoco gas station at 1090 N. Meridian Rd.

Soon after, they decided that his mother Jasbir Kaur would start cooking food that could be sold to customers. There weren’t many nerves or sleepless nights. If people didn’t like her mother’s food, the store and gas station would survive anyway. But Sohi said there wasn’t much doubt. She and her father had been eating and enjoying her mother’s cooking for years.

Husband and wife Ranjit Singh and Jasbir Kaur, owners of The Sohi Food Store, located in the Conoco gas station on North Meridian in Kalispell on June 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

“To be honest, we didn’t think about it long before,” Sohi said. “It was just, like, in the moment. We just started talking, ‘Okay, let’s do this, people will definitely like this.’ It is more or less that.”

Called Sohi Food Store, the convenience store offers a fairly typical range of necessities, drinks and snacks, including fried staples like chicken fingers and corn dogs. But these foods are relegated to a thin sliver of metal shelving that glistens gold in the light of the heat lamps.

The main attraction is a selection of naan, samosas, butter chicken and chicken curry. Sometimes vegetable curry makes an appearance on the menu of the day. The butter chicken and curry chicken meals come in polystyrene containers and are shrink-wrapped in a separate container filled with white rice. It’s a take-out setup, with the butter chicken priced at $7.99 and the chicken curry at $6.99.

There’s also a refrigerated crate nearby filled with lassis, a smoothie-like yogurt drink. Sohi Food Store’s Sweet Mango Lassi is mostly made with yogurt and mango, with a little added sugar. The sweet drink is thick but creamy and is easily drunk through a straw.

Ranjit Singh stocks a fridge with lassi, a type of yoghurt and fruit smoothie, at the Sohi Food Store, located in the Conoco gas station on North Meridian in Kalispell on June 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

A part-time medical assistant, Muskan Sohi also helps out in the store, but when it comes to cooking, that’s where her mother takes over. Kaur cooks by touch and doesn’t measure things. Her cooking methods and some of the spices she uses draw on family roots in the northern Indian state of Punjab. Pots and pans simmering with a fresh batch of butter chicken or curry can be found on a stove behind the register on any given day, Kaur regularly serving fresh portions when the display starts to thin out in the hands of hungry customers . The smell of Kaur’s cooking is the second thing customers greet after the front door rings when opened. Sohi Food Store starts selling Indian food at 10 a.m. and usually starts selling out for the day between 6 and 7 p.m., but sometimes food is still available until 8 p.m.

Jasbir Kaur stocks a crate at the Sohi Food Store, located in the Conoco gas station on North Meridian in Kalispell on June 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon

The Indian food option in this part of the state is limited, and Sohi said people sometimes ask for other Indian foods that aren’t offered at the store. Sometimes people call ahead and place orders for 20 people. In other cases, people drove two hours away and came to get food from the store. Then there are the locals, like DeeDee Dallen.

Dallen walked out of the store on Monday afternoon and headed to her car with a samosa and two orders of chicken curry with rice in her hands. A former Los Angeles resident who has lived in the area for nearly a decade, Dallen said Sohi Food Store reminded her of the Indian food she would eat back home. The flavor, convenience, and price have made her not just a regular, but an advocate of the store, going so far as to recommend it to family and friends and, in some cases, bring it directly to them.

She said the convenience store was not a place she normally stopped at, but one day she got curious and stopped in the parking lot.

“I attracted a lot of people to it,” she said. “It’s good food and it’s a good amount. It’s perfect for lunch.

Ranjit Singh prepares an order at the Sohi Food Store, located in the Conoco gas station on North Meridian in Kalispell on June 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | flathead beacon