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Why the country's biggest Indo-Pakistani grocery store came to Forsyth County
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A family walks to their car on Monday, July 8, 2019, after shopping at Patel Brothers, a new Indo-Pakistani grocery store that opened in south Forsyth last month. More businesses have emerged in Forsyth County to serve the area’s rapidly-growing population of residents who identify as Asian. - photo by Brian Paglia

There are two ways that Patel Brothers, the growing Indian and Pakistani grocery store chain, decides where to build a new store, says Swetal Patel, the company’s vice president: word of mouth and data.

The company has more than 50 stores in 20 states around the country, according to its website, but two years ago it had just one store in Georgia, in Decatur. The Illinois-based company knew it wanted to expand to the north metro Atlanta area, Swetal Patel said, so it looked at the data.

The data brought them to Forsyth County.

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Patel Brothers, an Indian and Pakistani grocery store chain based in Illinois, opened a new location off Peachtree Parkway last month to serve the area’s rapidly-growing population of residents who identify as Asian. - photo by Brian Paglia

According to statistics released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau, Forsyth County had the fastest-growing Asian population in the country between 2017 and 2018 among counties with a total population of 20,000 or more with an increase of 11.5% (3,408) in residents who identify as Asian.

The increase means that Forsyth County now has approximately 34,308 residents who identify as Asian.

“We saw that [Forsyth County] was a good fit,” Patel said.

It’s another example of the significant demographic change underway in the once-rural suburban community.

In 2000, Forsyth County’s population was approximately 98,000, and 92.3% of it was white. Less than 1,000 residents identified as Asian. The county’s largest minority group identified as Hispanic or Latino, which made up 5.6% of the population then.

Urban sprawl has caused Forsyth County’s population to explode since, and with it has come greater diversity. The county has grown by 141.4%, according to Census figures, to more than 236,000 last year, and Asians (14.5%) have eclipsed Hispanic or Latino (9.7%) as the largest minority group. The county’s white population is now 70.3%.

It was in the middle of this shift that Patel Brothers started to develop the site where its grocery store now sits on Caliber Court off Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth County two years ago, Swetal Patel said. It leveled the existing structure and built a brand-new “plaza” of buildings.

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Outside of the new Patel Brothers grocery store sits a small passenger cart called a rickshaw that is common in Asian countries. More businesses have emerged in Forsyth County to serve the area’s rapidly-growing population of residents who identify as Asian. - photo by Brian Paglia

The Patel Brothers grocery store occupies one building. The company specializes in fresh produce and has the largest selection of frozen goods from the Indo-Pakistani community, Swetal Patel said.

Most of the units in the other two buildings are already leased to a variety of small businesses, he said. There’s already signage for Mirage Sarees Center, an Indian clothing and jewelry store, and two full-service salons. Other units will be occupied by Indo-Pakistani restaurants, Swetal Patel said.

When the grocery store held a grand opening on June 14, customers waited for several hours for its doors to open.

“It’s doing well,” Swetal Patel said. “It’s met our expectations.”