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Falguni and Ali Dewjee, co-owners of Bombay Wraps in Chicago, on how they survived amid looting.

Bombay Wraps owners Falguni and Ali Dewjee describe how they transitioned first amid the coronavirus pandemic, then store looting

Just as the fast-casual Indian restaurant in Chicago was settling into a new normal, the original location was looted during protests

Years of pioneering the fast-casual Indian segment in Chicago with our concept Bombay Wraps was starting to pay off in 2019.

We were getting ready to celebrate our 10-year anniversary and had big plans to renovate and expand our original (Loop) location, and sign a lease on our fourth restaurant and first suburban outpost.

Our teams were working in concert and producing at a high level of output. Our customers were excited about our current offerings and future direction. Our neighborhoods were embracing us warmly as we continued to become an integral part of the community.

Then the pandemic hit.

Everything changed in March.

We faced a mega-calamity – and all the challenges meant that we risked going extinct.

The core of being a successful entrepreneur is to be nimble, agile and constantly evolving.

We had to step up and serve.

Like other restaurants, Bombay Wraps needed to either temporarily close or pivot to pick-up and delivery only.  

Already operating a robust pick-up, delivery and catering business, we decided to power on - not only to serve the community (including multiple hospitals and healthcare workers in our neighborhood) but also to provide a safe and productive space for our teams.

The transition to help the needy wasn’t out of the ordinary for us. Over the years, we had started Bombay Cares, a cause to give back to the community. We took this opportunity to pivot Bombay Cares and re-focus all our collective energies and limited resources in giving back to the community. Over a two-month period, we donated and/or subsidized over 2,500 lunch boxes to hospitals and healthcare workers. The feeling was priceless!

But just as we were adjusting to our new normal, we had another set of circumstances thrown at us.

During the protests in late May, our original store was looted, leaving behind broken windows, ransacked shelves and an empty cash register. Our initial reaction was one of anger and pain, but we quickly realized that there was a larger story unfolding in front of us.

We had yet another opportunity to create positive change for the future generations. Despite the break-in, we came back stronger and more determined than ever.

Since then, we have continued to evolve our business model and look for innovative ways to serve our customers. The various reopening phases in and around Chicago make for a rapidly changing business landscape.

We created a Family Meal for our customers to introduce their families to Indian food in a fun and interactive manner. We are also exploring the possibility of using our extra capacity to launch a virtual or online-only concept, with the overarching goal of continuing to make Indian food accessible & enjoyable to all.

We also continue to embrace technology. We have upgraded our online-ordering system (now with a fully customizable menu), have introduced touchless payments, created a contactless pick up and carryout station and are in the process of launching a revamped app.

As a small business owner, these times are confusing and stressful. We are on a rollercoaster that we do not control. My go-to philosophy is to focus on things I can control – optimizing the business model, delighting our customers and taking care of our teams. We continue to stay optimistic and know the industry will come out of this stronger, more nimble and ready to take on the future.

When husband & wife team Falguni and Ali Dewjee opened Bombay Wraps in 2010, they had one simple mission: to share the delicious, simple and fun street food they grew up eating in Bombay (Mumbai), India. Today this mission continues across three retail outlets and a food truck, as Bombay Wraps is committed to serving Fresh, Indian Food, Fast in a modern, casual and fun environment. Falguni and Ali have supported a variety of causes in the city of Chicago through their Bombay Cares community initiative. (Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

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