It was 10 days before Diwali. The lady behind the cash counter at the shop was busy booking orders from customers for Diwali Bakshanams (a choice of sweets and savories). What is unique about this shop is that all the items sold are homemade and supplied by ladies (mamis)from whom the shop has been regularly outsourcing a variety of snacks, savories, powders, pickles, vadams, vathals,and appalams.
Located at the NDP complex, (behind Besant Nagar bus terminus) adjacent to Elliamman temple, in South Chennai, this small 225 sq.ft shop is known as Srividya Coffee and the lady behind the counter is Mrs. Srividya Srinivasan an energetic and hardworking owner of the shop. With just two assistants, the shop is a busy center in the evening, starting at 4.00 pm with tiffin items like puzhungal-arisi -sevai in five flavours, chapathis with side dish, milagapodi coated idlis, sweet and salt kozhukattais etc.and by 6.30 pm the stocks are sold out! You can see a stream of senior citizens coming to buy their choice of tiffin items for their dinner every day. The shop is very popular among the residents of not only Besant Nagar but the entire Adyar neighborhood.
“Our regular customers, even if they move out of this area to distant locations like Anna Nagar, visit our shop regularly for their supply of powders and other condiments and of course our tasty savories” says Mrs. Srividya beaming with pride.
Mr.Srinivasan , a retired offical from Unicef, one of the hundreds of loyal customers is all praise for the cordial atmosphere in the shop and also believes that the shop is popular because it sells “ genuine home made products which are reasonably priced”
According to Mrs Srividya the shop was started in 1983 and was located on the busy second avenue in Besant Nagar . Due to problems with the landlord the shop moved to the present location in 1988
“For the first five years, we concentrated only on fresh ground coffee and roasting coffee seeds of customers who came with their own supply of coffee seeds. It was my father who suggested that I start selling snack items and also supply home made sweets, savories to interested customers. Initially I used to make the items myself at home. As the business grew and I found it difficult to manage everything, I started outsourcing the items from other ladies. Today I have about seven suppliers. I ensure that the items supplied are of good quality and tasty and produced under hygienic conditions by personally visiting the homes where they are made and checking out the items periodically”.
“When the idea was extended later to Diwali Bakshanams , it became a hit. What started as an experiment in the initial years has now become an important part of our annual sales for the shop.
The sale for Diwali special items account for about a month’s average sales in the shop. It was in 1994 that I started making pickles at my home for selling in the shop. Later I started outsourcing that too”
The idea for selling tiffin items happened 10 years ago when a gentleman who was selling home made puzhungal arisi sevai on the beach road was recommended to Srividya Coffeee shop for stocking his tasty sevais. The encouraging response that the shop got for the item made Mrs Srividya think of adding other items like chapathis, idlis, kozhukattai etc.
“We also sell bondas, masal vadais and samosas on alternate evenings. Many people reserve their favorite items on phone to ensure that they are not disappointed. Sweets like athirasams, Jangris and small Neiappams are available right through the year.”
The fact that 70% of the items sold in the shop are homemade is a big plus point in favor of the shop. A few pickle items and ready mixes, all local brands, account for the balance sales. No national brands are stocked in the shop.
Has the shop introduced any new item or tried new ideas recently?
“Yes, this year we introduced the idea of selling variety of Sundals with an accompanying sweet item –one variety every day during the nine days of Navaratri, which was very well appreciated by our customers. Though we have been selling special items during Vinayaka Chathurthi, Krishna Jayanthi and other festival occasions this is the first time we tried the experiment during Navarathri.”
As a loyal customer for the last two decades I can also vouch for this friendly neighborhood shop for their supply of consistently good quality and tasty home made food items!
( Contact Srividya Coffee; 044-24918939, 42384212)
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