By Nan Price, Content Manager MetroHartford Alliance
Ankit Harpaldas, Founder and Owner of Capital Spirits and Dhaba Wala Indian Kitchen, talks to the Hartford Chamber of Commerce about locating and growing his businesses in downtown.
Why Hartford? How did you decide on the location for your business?
ANKIT HARPALDAS: I left corporate finance in 2014 to move back home to Connecticut and wanted to join the family business. My father has been doing business in Hartford for almost my whole life starting with Paul’s Ranch House on Main Street. I wanted to provide something unique rather than just be another employee to our various family businesses.
We’ve been in the retail liquor business as a family for a long time and had never really leveraged ecommerce for it. When I moved back, I created a platform for our stores to fulfill on demand delivery. In a short amount of time, we realized that about 90% of our deliveries were coming to downtown Hartford, so we knew consumers here were clearly using our on demand delivery services because they couldn’t find what they needed locally. It was real market insight. After about a year, we looked at opening a physical retail location downtown and instantly fell in love with Pratt Street. We met John Cohen, who helped us find the perfect home at 73 Pratt Street, which is now the home to Capital Spirits.
Tell us about your business growth.
ANKIT: People thought we were crazy to try and open something downtown. But we saw there was a big opportunity for us to invest in downtown specifically. As a business owner, you always strive to provide options/services that are in high demand. We were able to lay our groundwork downtown early on, before all the activity we see going on downtown now with many new apartments, offices, etc.
People welcomed us with open arms and supported our business. Every month we saw an increase in residents and working people. Being an entrepreneur, you’re always thinking what you can do next or what is the next big missed opportunity. At that time, we saw the real demand for people to access fresh produce or basic groceries you can’t just find at a convenience store.
One thing led to the next and we opened The Greenway Market on Asylum Street. Bruce Becker, who is the developer, welcomed us with open arms and gave us a lot of support and help we needed to ensure we were successful. Since then, our relationship with Bruce has kept growing and we rented another space from him to open a quick service Indian restaurant known as Dhaba Wala Indian Kitchen.
What makes downtown Hartford unique?
ANKIT: Downtown Hartford is a very unique place because the opportunity is endless here. It’s a small city that’s growing very quickly. If you’re willing to give it some patience and grow with it, I think you can find much success here. The people who live and work here want to see this city win. They show their support in whatever way they can. A big part of our success goes to landlords willing to work with us and set us up in a situation to win along with good relationships with the city officials who want to see businesses flourish and succeed here.
What is the best thing about living/working in Hartford?
ANKIT: The best thing for me personally is the convenience! On a more serious note, I went to school in Philadelphia then worked in New York City, so living in a suburb wasn’t an option. While downtown isn’t New York City, it has a great vibe. The living options are great and I enjoy feeling like I’m living in a city. I enjoy being able to walk to whatever I may need. Being part of a growing city has been fun to see. In just five years downtown has flourished so much.
What key elements are necessary to start and run a successful business in Hartford?
ANKIT: Customer service. Give the people what they want and be fair. Starting off, I think people assumed we would be expensive because of our downtown location. We changed that thinking pretty quickly. When you’re courteous and respectful to your customers they notice and they’re appreciative. They become your customers for life. We have many customers who used to live downtown and have moved away but still show their support because of the trust we’ve built with them. We’ve always strived to provide quality products at fair prices with the best service.
Learn more about Capital Spirits
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Learn more about Dhaba Wala Indian Kitchen
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