Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grand Sweets

Grand Sweets! The well known Sweet and Savory shop in Chennai has split. Instead of a unique, single point meeting ground for thousands of people, this landmark in Adyar, Chennai has now split into two units with same name, at the original venue. This is a result of a split between the two daughters of the founder of Grand Sweets (bagapirivinai!). Now branches of these two split units (both in the name of Grand Sweets) are appearing all over the city and I understand are likely to spread to other parts of Tamilnadu.

It is common in the world of popular eateries and restaurants to open branches to exploit the huge potential that a good brand name offers. It happened with McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KCF), Starbuck Coffee House, etc. all of which started in USA and spread all over the world. It is happening in our country with brands like Coffee Day, Barrista, Saravanas, Sangeetha & Adyar Ananda Bhavan. The last one is known by the same name not only in Adyar but other places in Chennai, different parts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka!

But the way it has happened with Grand Sweets has broken my heart. I have no objection to the family opening any number of branches, anywhere in the world. But it pains me to see the venerable institution split into two with a separation wall (like the one in the Ambuja Cement TV commercial) at the place of origin! Though a branch of Grand Sweets has come up very close to where I live, I still like to go to the original venue located on II Main Road in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, as the staff at the branch are not as friendly and nor are they aware of some of the famous items of GS. Like my favorite U/ K Mavu (Urundai Kuzhambu Powder) with which one can make the delicious Urundai More (Buttermilk) Kuzhambu or even Paruppu Usili!

Shri (Late) Natarajan Chettiar started Grand Sweets at his spacious residence in 1982 with a vision to supply top quality sweets and savouries to the neighbourhood. Over the years it had grown by leaps and bounds to become a “must visit” shopping point for any visitor to Chennai (within the country or even from abroad). For the Kai Murukku, Thenghuzhal or a host of other crunchy savouries and delcious sweets that GS offered. All made with fresh refined oil and pure desi ghee by very experienced `Mamis` and `Mamas`. Providing consistently excellent quality and taste, justifying the little extra one paid for every item.

People within the city visited Grand Sweets also for their very tasty (and free) prasadam that was distributed to all visitors in the morning and in the evening; every day without fail! On Mondays it was Melagorai (Pepper rice), Tuesdays – Rava Kesari, Wednesdays – Bisibele (Samabar Rice), Thursdays – Venn Pongal (Lentil Rice), Friday – Chakkara Pongal (Sweet Rice), Saturdays –Puliyodaraai (Tamarind Rice) and Sundays the ubiquitous Thayir Sadam ( Curd rice).

I have been a customer of GS since the time it started. I would invariably visit Grand Sweets around the prasadam time only to discover that I was not alone. One would find well known personalities of Chennai, waiting near the prasadam counter to literally grab the dhonnai (cup made of leaves) from the tray of prasadam placed at the counter. Some of them would feel very embarrassed to find themselves caught red handed in the act. But who cared? The delicious prasadam, which was not for sale, justified the little extra effort required to grab them!

I have bumped into long lost friends at Grand Sweets. Many of them NRIs or parents of NRI children, who had come in to buy several packets of rice mixes, pickles and savouries to be taken abroad. I used to take half a suitcase full of these goodies for my son and his friends when he was living in the US.

In spite of the hot and humid atmosphere (because of the asbestos roofing), there would always be a crowd at the Grand Sweets right from 8a.m; when they opened for business. The crowd began to grow during afternoons when they started serving tiffin items like ‘Kuzhi Paniyaram’ and ‘Adai Aviyal’. This part of the business had grown so big that almost every Grand Sweets branch now has a `make shift` restaurant serving a variety of tiffin items with some branches even serving mini meals during lunch time. But I have already started hearing murmurs about the declining quality of savouries from old and loyal customers, which does not augur well for the institution.

No wonder that the main venue does not have much crowd these days. Even the air-conditioned branches are attracting much lesser crowd than what a famous brand like GS should attract. So have the calculations of the family members; that by dividing the property and increasing the number of branches; they can multiply their profits have gone horribly wrong? Some experts should advise them that unless the quality and service is the same in every branch, the brand is bound to suffer .

Will the disputing family consider breaking the dividing wall and restore the GS to the original venue as it was before the partition? They should not be surprised if the crowds start teeming back to the place from all over Chennai and even from abroad, for the sheer joy of not only shopping at GS, but also for the possibility of meeting old friends; and of course for the delectable prasadams offered every day!

I hope it is not just a wishful thinking of an old loyal customer of GS!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Independent House in Chennai