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Imran’s store is international – but remains at the heart of his community

Students, regulars and foodies flock to the Kashmir International Food Store. For co-owner Imran Khan, Middlesbrough is in his blood

Kashmir Food Store considers itself at the heart of and a great part of its own community – yet attracts customers from miles and miles away.

Imran Khan, co-owner of the Abingdon Road shop – which specialises in international foods from across the world – says it is the attentive service of himself and his team which allows them to be both things.

Kashmir Food Store was opened in the 1980s and run by the Banaras family until 2012 when it was taken over by Imran and his co-investors. Between 2013 and 2014 they bought two neighbouring properties, one to the rear and one to the side and extended the building.

It sells fresh fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and other bakery goodies, fresh meat, dairy, a wide range of drinks, frozen items, kitchenware, dried and preserved items and pretty much every herb and spice you can find anywhere on the planet.

“We have students from the university who just pop in for some milk or yoghurt and we have the nearby residents who come and do all their shopping in here,” says the 41-year-old.

“Then we have the foodies who come for their specialist ingredients – no-one has what we have for 25 to 30 miles. People do tell us that at the big supermarkets for spices you get only 20g or 30g when for the same price we’d give you 100g.”

He says a “common sense” approach has guided his time in retail which he now considers his “passion” – and it’s a passion which shines through when he talks about both his customers and the community around Abingdon Road.

“We do our bit in the community,” says Imran. “We do whatever we can because the community is what keeps us going.

“Everyone gets on with each other. You get to know people’s faces and you know who’s who. Everyone knows each other and gets on with each other.

“We go out of our way to please people. All of our staff including me go out of our way to get people an answer to their questions or to carry items to their cars.

“We just want the customers to be happy. We are always on the shop floor interacting with customers and finding out their needs, it’s just how I would want myself to be treated but a lot of it is just common sense and it’s my passion now.”

Imran has lived in various towns and cities in England since he arrived to live here 28 years ago and now lives in Linthorpe – there’s only one place he’d call home now, Middlesbrough.

He said: “I wouldn’t change the place. I came to the UK in 1993 and I’ve been to Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford and I don’t rate any place as good as Middlesbrough.

“It’s in our blood now. As soon as I hit the A19 coming back from somewhere and I start to see signposts for places like Yarm I know I can relax because I’m nearly home.”

We are words: Andrew Pain

We are pictures: Dave Charnley