How Fruit Shop on Greams Road began
The story behind one of Chennai's iconic food chains that opened its doors in 1995
Welcome back to The Chennai Emailer — a local journalism project that brings out original human-interest features & news compilation from Chennai. It’s run by me —Mohammed Rayaan😊
I’m currently pursuing the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (City University of New York).
I started this newsletter as my passion project to bring out the best of local journalism from this city that I call home. I am trying a new format since last week:
📰Every Saturday, you will get a crisper ‘News of the Week’ edition along with event listings and other interesting social media posts.
💌On Sundays, you will get an original human-interest story.
So you will now see me twice a week. Hope you love this. ❤️
In my audience survey which I did two months ago as part of the CUNY program, I found that people wanted to read about businesses based out of Chennai. I felt it was a great chance for me to highlight local entrepreneurs and this edition is the first of many.😊
For the past 27 years, Fruit Shop on Greams Road has served Chennai residents with delightful juices with quirky names. If you are someone who loves to drink, then this is a place you would have visited once or at least heard of it in passing — unless you are living under a rock!
Started by Harris Abdulla and Mohammad Salim, the shop with the iconic cherry logo with a yellow background, is known for offering a menu that has consistently maintained its quality all these years. In a chat with The Chennai Emailer, Harris narrates the origin story of Fruit Shop.
"Salim and I were in the plywood business for many years. This was something that has always been in our DNA," he says. "However, we often spoke of diversifying. One of the things that kept occurring in our minds was running our own restaurant as during those days the hotel business was growing rapidly. We first thought of starting a Malabar-themed restaurant. Later, we decided to open a small juice outlet."
🥤Serving it fresh
He then tells how he came across a client who happened to own a small commercial space that was available for rent. "We quickly moved here and we started Fruit Shop on Greams Road," he tells.
Harris then goes on to talk about the USP of his business and the things he and Salim stand for.
"We didn't start by promising to offer exotic fruits as it would be hard to store and harder to see if they will be available throughout the season. Hence, we went for fruits that could be bought easily from local sellers," Harris informs. "We stand apart today because we keep innovating and that is what makes our brand popular."
Another choice the business partners made was to keep the ambience of their outlets simple. "Our place was, and still is, a great hangout spot for college-goers and families," says Harris. "I guess it's because we have played within our strengths — keep it simple — without compromising on the quality and the taste."
🍒A mashup menu
The range of drinks offered here is unique. The popular ones include Jughead Special, Lime Mint Cooler, Calypso, Pink Panther, among others. The catchy name of their beverages immediately grabbed the attention of their customers. “Jughead Special,” Harris says, “was a tribute to the character Jughead from Archies Comics as Salim is a huge fan.”
Adding a few more details of his menu, Harris mentioned that the core strength of Fruit Shop is its focus on serving only "natural fruits and keeping it as fresh as possible".
📈Grow as you go
He recalls that within months of opening the shop, the place brimmed with customers. "Many told us to expand," Harris says, "But we decided to wait and take it slow. Our priority was that if we open a new store, then it should be able to replicate the first store’s success, working system without hindrance."
The duo then opened at Besant Nagar. There are outlets in Velachery, Anna Nagar, Kilpauk and more. Fruit Shop, over the years, is also known for its tongue-in-cheek marketing, the banners which you could see outside its outlets or in small posters within the space.
As our chat ends, Harris shares a few parting thoughts: "As an entrepreneur, you never stop learning but the day when you think you have learned everything you can in your business, then that is the day you will start losing. I have also been privileged to have a great partner, an amazing staff, and a supportive family who help me grow."
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