By Logan Garrett, Editor-In-Chief—

Niral Chaudhari poses for a portrait in front of the Kanku’s Food Mart on Central Avenue on Feb. 2, 2019. (Photo by Troy Stolt)

Nestled just a half mile away from UTC’s campus, the Kanku’s on Central Avenue has become a staple convenience store for many students, but it seems these students are more interested with the man running the store than the store itself.

Six years ago, Niral Chaudhari left his hometown of Gujarat, India, and immigrated to the United States. After moving around the Chicago area for a year, Chaudhari settled in Chattanooga and began working with some family friends at the Kanku’s.

Despite only being in Chattanooga for five years, Niral associates with the city as his hometown and could not see himself living elsewhere.

“I love Chattanooga. I love the people, the students, the weather. Oh the weather, man!” Chaudhari said. “It’s not too hot, not too cold, it’s just nice to be in this city.”

When he moved to Chattanooga, Chaudhari was insecure about his lack of knowledge of the English language but feels much more comfortable now, even when he does make mistakes.

“I was scared to mess up when I spoke English, but you can’t take it too seriously,” Chaudhari said.

Despite the initial language barrier, Chaudhari has risen to local fame due to his innumerable interactions with UTC students and Chattanooga locals both at the Kanku’s Food Mart and on social media.

With close to 2,000 followers on Instagram and over 1,400 followers on Twitter, Chaudhari has a significant social media impact, and he chooses to use this online presence to put a smile on his followers’ faces.

“I started tweeting like three years ago. I’m trying to make people smile through my social media things, and people are loving it,” Chaudhari said. “It’s helped the business too, because once you know where the tweet comes from, where the post comes from, where the instagram comes from, people see that and say ‘Oh that’s Kanku’s Food Mart,’ and they get curious.”

Although his social media interactions may drum up business for the store, Chaudhari emphasizes that he does not only value the customers by the money in their pockets.

“I want to work because I want to see my friends everyday,” Chaudhari said. “I don’t treat the customer as a customer. I believe in friendship. People are greedy, they just care about money. I care about people.”

When he’s not working, Niral can be found hanging out with his friends and family.

“When I have free time or when I have a day off, I hang out at my friends’ houses and we see family friends,” Niral said. “Sometimes we go to fraternity parties and things like that, but I get to see my friends when I’m here at the store all day.”

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