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New owner seeks family image for mini-mart
The first thing Ramesh Kumar did after purchasing the SK Market on Bethel Road in a foreclosure sale was to remove all the adult magazines and DVDs for which the store had become known.
“I want this to be a community market where the customers are not embarrassed to bring in their children,” Kumar said last Friday, his first day in business. “I want to be able to bring my own kids in here and won’t sell anything they cannot see.”
Aside from the magazines, Kumar spent two months removing a more literal variety of dirt. It took him that long to remake and remodel the space, which the former customers trickling in on his first day barely recognize.
Customers have come in to buy beer and cigarettes, which will remain as the store’s major revenue stream.
But familiar faces are now look around to make sure they’re in the right place.
At one point, a young woman and her friend came in to buy five gallons of milk, realizing the price for that particular item was competitive with even the largest markets.
“I’m selling some items below cost,” Kumar said. “I want to get people to come in and get whatever they need. They will realize that my prices compare favorably with the local supermarkets. And I’m closer to downtown.”
Aside from food items, the market hosts an ATM that has no service charge — although that might not last forever.
For now, the stock is the predictable mix of beverages, non-perishable food items and souvenirs.
For now it is spacious and spread out, but that will change slightly when Kumar brings in a deli counter and other food options.
The market is open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., with Kumar himself handling most of those hours. It is part of a string of family-owned businesses, which includes Indian restaurants in Silverdale and Bainbridge Island.
Even with this connection, the food offered in the market will not be ethnic.
“I could offer Indian food in here but probably will not,” he said. “Maybe after a while, but Port Orchard might not be ready for it yet.”
Kumar also plans to reinstall the front windows, which were removed by the previous owner.
“I want to let some light in here and be more open,” he said. “I want to let people know that they are welcome and to come in here. Unlike what was here before, I don’t have to hide in a dark place.”
Kumar was born in India but moved to the Los Angeles area 21 years ago. He moved up to Silverdale 10 years ago to get out of LA because, “Every time I heard a helicopter, I had to call my wife to see if she was OK. It’s not like that around here.”
Kumar hopes to build his clientele and serve the community’s needs.
“A lot of convenience stores like Circle K and 7-11 are restricted by their franchise agreement as to what they can offer,” he said. “I’m more flexible and can provide what customers ask for.”