Tough Market, Finances Led to Kurry Kabab Closing

The owners will to return to New York City after seven years in Northfield.

Satinder "Pappu" Singh, the affable chef-owner of Kurry Kabab, worked 13 years as a cab driver in New York City in order to raise the money to open his restaurant in Northfield in 2005. In another week or so, he and his wife, Nikki, will return to New York and he'll get back behind the wheel of a cab again.

"We spent $200,000, plus seven years here," Singh said. "We loved serving the people of Northfield, but we cannot make it."

A combination of the recession, Northfield's cost-conscious restaurant market and the financial difficulties of Kurry Kabab's landlord led to the closing.

"We did the hard work," Singh said.

The restaurant opened in 2005 and quickly established itself as a lunch and dinner destination, as well as a catering option. Kurry Kabab often catered Indian weddings in the Twin Cities as well as local events, he noted.  When the recession hit in 2008, business declined though Kurry Kabab's rent had increased, Singh said.

"This is a kid's town," he said, where college and high school students eat out more frequently than other residents and drive the restaurant market. "In this small town, if you raise the prices, you lose the customer."

Kurry Kabab's financial difficulties were compounded in 2011 when the restaurant lost its liquor license due to unpaid property taxes by the restaurant's landlord, Heritage Square, LLC. The restaurant was without a liquor license for more than a month before the Northfield City Council approved a waiver that allowed the restaurant to serve wine and beer.

At the time, Singh described the license revocation as "a business buster," and that proved true. Since 2011, there has been a severe drop in customers, Singh said.

A Fickle Market

In many ways, Singh beat the odds in the restaurant business.

An Ohio State University study found that one out of four restaurants close within the first year, and about 60 percent close or change hands within the first three years.

The challenge for restaurants and other retail stores is to stay fresh and "top-of-mind" with their customers, said Sian Muir, who teaches marketing, entrepreneurship, arts management and management policy and strategy at St. Olaf College. Kurry Kabab also may have struggled because of its "difficult location in a strip mall," said Muir, who noted that most consumers are "fickle" about restaurants.

"Customers are always looking for something new and different, so restaurants tend to do better when they first open," Muir says. "If you are not on the main street, you've got to let people know where you are."

Future for Singh

Singh said he is hoping to sell some of his equipment to another restaurateur, but he and his family will move back to New York City, where his brother also drives a cab.

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Betsy Gasior October 22, 2012 at 06:23 PM
God bless him and his family. I'm going to miss the Lamb Vindaloo. :(
LoAnn Shepard October 23, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Thank you for many wonderful meals! We will miss you. Good luck!
Christine Tarnawskyj October 25, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Goodbye, Northfield Neighbor, Kurry Kabab! I loved the dessert rice pudding, Kheer! It was a specialty to have on weekends when working at Northfield Urgent Care.
Jana Ritch Kane October 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Our family won't know what to do without our second home! You were there to feed us nutritious food when we were flooded and had no kitchen to eat from... You were such a part of our lives, my kids always refer to eating Indian food as "Creepy Bob's". (My 4 yr old's name for you.) Blessings to you and your family, and our sorrow that the doors have closed.
John Owens October 30, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Our blessings to the Singh family moving forward, and our gratitude for bringing great food to Northfield, making this a Special Place. Northfield's star burns a bit dimmer now that you are leaving.


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