Bharat Traders International

There are not many places where you can buy lunch for $5 these days. But at West Footscray’s iconic specialty grocery store Bharat Traders International, their ‘3 samosas for $5’ deal has not changed in over ten years.

“Our vegetarian samosas are served hot, and they’re satisfying for breakfast, lunch or a snack. By about 5 pm we’re usually sold out,” smiles Pradeep Tiwari, one of the managers.

Recommend tangy tamarind chutney for an extra 50 cents

“I highly recommend pairing it with a sachet of tangy tamarind chutney for an extra 50 cents – though we do have tomato sauce to cater for our customers who might prefer that!” laughs Pradeep.

Bharat Traders International was founded in 1991 by Pradeep’s parents, who lived in the area and noticed that it was difficult to source the rice and spices that were used in Indian cooking. At the time, it was the first Indian retail grocery store to open in Melbourne.

Over thirty years later and with a bigger shopfront, their range of over 9000 products has expanded to include Mauritian, Fijian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. They are the largest supplier of Ethiopian staple products in the City of Maribyrnong, as well as catering to the local Sudanese and Somali population.

Multicultural specialist supermarket

Now Pradeep refers to the family-owned store as a multicultural specialist supermarket that also wholesales and supplies bakeries and restaurants.

Step inside, and you’ll discover lots of specialist items, religious paraphernalia, and a colourful range of freshly made Indian cakes and desserts.

It’s going to be good!

“Our gulab jamun (milk dumplings in rose flavoured sugar syrup) is my favourite. The same woman has been making our gulab jamun onsite for the last twenty years. When someone has been making the same thing for that long, you know, it’s going to be good!”

As well as running Bharat Traders International with his sisters and wife, Pradeep started and now volunteers as the President of the West Footscray Traders Association.

“My family and friends used to throw coloured powder outside the store to celebrate Holi, and people would walk past and ask us what we were doing. So in 2016, we closed off Clarke Street to present our first Holi festival, and over 1000 people came! Since then, we’ve tried to hold a major street festival every year called the Festival of Colours.

Bharat Traders Family Shop

“West Footscray Traders Association was born out of Barkly Street’s traders all working together to put on the Festival of Colours. So our committee’s focus is very much about holding events that bring people together and down to West Footscray, whether it’s Easter, Mother’s Day or Diwali.

“In recent times, we’ve also created a pop-up op shop. I thought Barkly Street was missing an op shop since the local church op shop closed, and the people who used to hang out and work there had nowhere to go. So I contacted a landlord to turn an empty shop front into an op shop with a free coffee machine inside so that the elderly, people with disabilities and other members of the community could gather, make new friends and volunteer to work in the store.”

Heart and passion live here

When asked about what makes Bharat Traders International so special after decades in the industry, Pradeep says, “Heart and passion live here. We are always available to give help and advice, and we invite and encourage the local community inside to show them how to use the products.”

“When you’ve been part of the community for this long, you get to know your customers by face and by name. Sometimes people will drop in just for a chat.

Our next endeavour is the food truck at the back of the store. The Spice Truck opened recently and features an Indian fusion menu – think tandoori chicken burgers – and offers West Footscray locals a daytime takeaway food option that we think is missing right now.”