Local grocery store gives residents knowledge of world food

A local grocery store has taken it upon themselves to share the flavors of other countries with the people of the Black Hills. Al Rodriguez opened Masala Mart in 2018 when he realized there was nowhere outside Denver and Sioux Falls to get ingredients for his customers at his restaurant Curry Masala. Rodriguez would sell the ingredients of the food he sold, and it started off with one shelf and after he retired from the restaurant business, his idea for an international grocery store quickly expanded. 

The store not only offers food and ingredients from India, but it offers a wide range of food from all parts of the world. Masala Mart has rooms dedicated to different areas of the world such as a room for Indian food and Indian spices and snacks, an Asian room with things such as Kimchi and Chinese tea, a Middle Eastern room with different snacks and drinks from all different countries of the Middle East, and there are even talks of expanding and creating a room for Europe and Africa. Rodriguez also stated that if customers want a certain product that is not in the store, then he can order the products for the customer. 

The store exposes new cultures to the people of the Black Hills and introduces them to a new way of cooking. 

“New people come in with a curiosity all the time, they see a product that attracts them, and we start talking and they find more items that attract them.” Rodriguez explained. Rodriguez believes his store is a great way to introduce people to new cultures and he believes in this so much that he is also bringing cooking classes to his store. 

“People have been pushing me to do it, I am thinking about doing it once a month.” 

Rodriguez stated that many people in the past did cooking classes at his restaurant and families and friends would come together to learn to cook Indian food. Rodriguez stated that people were very happy to learn how to make Indian food and he was also happy because they were learning to make healthy food as Indian food has many health benefits. 

Rodriguez also stated that he was teaching the recipes passed down from his family and that he wanted to pass it down to everyone. 

Rodriguez also hinted at selling prepared food at his store from all the different catering companies that have been opening in Rapid City. 

“Once the store is up to the health code standards to be able to sell prepared food, we can sell it, and this will really help other local businesses.” 

The store is doing a lot to bring people of Rapid City and even the Black Hills together, but that is not everything. The products also have health benefits such the different Indian spices that can help with blood sugar levels. Also, there is an Indian version of a drink made by Coca-Cola named Thumbs Up. 

Rodriguez stated that he grew up with this drink in India and it has a special thing about it, it does not fizz. The drink can be dropped and shook, and it won’t explode on you. This is because Indian people do not like very carbonated drinks and the drink is also made with cane sugar over corn syrup in America. This low carbonation and substitute for corn syrup can be a better option for people who get a sick feeling from regular sodas. 

Of all the things Rodriguez sells, he said his favorite section is the snack section filled with different cookies and other treats from where he grew up. 

The store can be found under Masala Mart on Facebook and located on 124 E. St. Joseph Street, Rapid City, S.D. 

Masala Mart in Rapid City, Photo by Jacob Jones