Indian Businesses

On a couple of instances when I first moved to Berkeley, I was stopped near the North Berkeley BART station by confused people who wanted to know how to get to the “shopping district.” I had to inquire further because I was not sure whether they meant Fourth Street, downtown Berkeley, or Telegraph Avenue, or one of some of the other shopping areas around town. In fact, it was none of these; in both cases, the inquiring parties were looking for the shops that sell Indian music, food, saris, and other items. There are quite a few businesses in Berkeley specializing in items from India, and a large concentration can be found along University Avenue from the freeway and several blocks east of there (a short walk from North Berkeley BART). In West Berkeley, Viks Distributors operates a warehouse with Indian spices and staples and the popular Viks Chaat House. Several other Indian restaurants and cafes serving chaat (savory snacks) can be found throughout town.

It somewhat surprised me to find so many Indian businesses here in Berkeley. The Bay Area has a large Indian American population, but I had always thought of those population centers as being in the southern East Bay and Silicon Valley cities of Fremont, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and surrounding areas. According to the 2000 Census, Asian Indians make up 1.7% of the Berkeley population, while those numbers are 10.2% in Fremont and 10% in Sunnyvale. It will be interesting to see what the breakdown is when we get to the next Census in 2010, and to know how popular over time Berkeley has been as a shopping destination for Indian imports, and what effect (if any) online shops have had on such businesses.

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1 Comment »

  1. I was hoping to explore the Indian businesses in Berkeley before I moved away. I never once got the chance, and am sure I missed out on some great food as well. I am glad I get to experience Berkeley vicariously through your blog. I hope you never finish your walk. : ) Jodi

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