When you step inside Shalimar Convenience Store on Forest Road in St. John’s, you find the usual staples… milk, ice cream, chips, and pizza subs, but tucked away in the back cooler, you will also find delicious samosas and containers of tasty butter chicken and rice, freshly prepared daily for customers.
This is less surprising, of course, when you discover that the owner of the store, Imran Dar (and his family), also own the Shalimar Restaurant on Duckworth Street.
Mr. Dar’s journey toward proprietorship is as unique as the shop that he runs. Originally from Pakistan, Mr. Dar was working in Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer when he received a full scholarship from Memorial University to pursue a Masters degree in Power Systems Engineering. With his wife, Anila, and five children, Mr. Dar moved to Newfoundland to pursue his studies.
While here, he and his wife started a small catering business out of their home, which eventually blossomed into the Shalimar Restaurant. After his first year of studies and having completed his course work at the university, he and his wife opened the restaurant.
Imran recalls, “I was doing my research for my Masters late at night. I would go to the restaurant and work with my wife from morning until evening and then go to the lab to work on my research into the night.”
Mr. Dar continued on his entrepreneurial path, becoming a franchisee of an Esso gas station and convenience store in Mount Pearl. He received six weeks of training in Toronto and held the franchise for a year before deciding that he was interested in branching out on his own.
Two years ago, when the opportunity arose to purchase the convenience store, which had at that point been open for close to twenty years, he did his research and with the support of his family, made the leap.
Mr. Dar used the knowledge that he had gained from his time at Esso to make necessary changes to the existing shop. “Retail business is a detail business,” he explains. “You have to know what you have or else you cannot run the show.”
And so he developed a new inventory system. “I developed it myself. I programmed all the SKUs and all the bar codes. It has made a big difference. At first I was doing it manually which was effective but definitely not efficient.”
He says that he regularly uses his electrical engineering knowledge to help improve his businesses. “I can fix a lot of things here and at the restaurant, which is great because in the retail business your profit margin is small if you always have to pay to get maintenance done.”
Owning a convenience store and a restaurant does not leave much time for leisure but Mr. Dar enjoys his work immensely. “The good thing here [in Newfoundland] is that there are equal opportunities. There is no one to stop me from doing this work. If you are hardworking and have a goal in your mind then you can get it.”
With two successful businesses and plans for expansion in the future, Mr. Dar knows what it takes to succeed and offers these words of wisdom for those following their own entrepreneurial trail, “Work hard, make your intentions clear about what you are going to do, and then do it. Don’t look left, right or back… just focus.”