This week on #thedeliciousstory we head back in time to visit the Des Moines Farmer’s Market about a decade ago and one of its most famous merchants. Saloo’s India was a stalwart operation at the Farmer’s Market for years, run by popular favorites Saloo Sadiq and her daughter Aisha. Since 1976 the market has been a feature of downtown weekend life, and Saloo’s was a staple—touting 30 years in operation until she retired in 2018.
This interview took place circa 2010 when Saloo had already cleared more than 20 years of business, selling her signature recipes of Indian dishes. During this interview, we learn about what was involved in preparing for the market each week, how her business expanded and changed over time, and some of the backstories of the market over those many years.
The original interview was a vidcast. At the time my husband David and I had access to a downtown space providing recording equipment, and David generously co-hosted and staffed the tech board for the weekly show. Since the original interview was for video, I’ve edited it to make more sense in a podcast format.
You’ll find this interview with Saloo and Aisha interesting if you are a fan of the farmer’s market, or if you appreciate insights from the behind-the-scenes world of being a vendor at such an operation. Of course, Saloo’s India foodie fans will be delighted as well.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Saloo became a farmer’s market purveyor in 1988, at which time she convinced her husband into helping with the venture which he did for her first decade in business. She created all the recipes for her amazing Indian fare which included Naan, cutlets (potato patties filled with beef or vegetables), Samosas (baked vegetable pastries) and achar, among 16 other items they sold.
When Saloo’s husband passed away in 2004, their daughter Aisha moved from Dallas, TX back to Des Moines to build her business in real estate, and help Saloo with the market, which she did for the next 15 years. The weekly labor involved was a huge commitment of time and resources for both women, but they managed. And all the while Aisha was building her real estate business and Saloo, while expanding her market offerings, worked a 30-year career with Younkers!
Saloo is a natural comedian with wise insights. She shares several stories of the dynamics of her family life, revealing an energy that is an inspiration to others. As you listen, you’ll pick up that Saloo is all about the joy of purpose and connections, and she does not let the dust settle when she can be active.
Saloo explains the process behind creating her recipes—and the variations of each—which all seem to be favorites for her customers. Most noteworthy is her recipe for naan made with milk which she sold wholesale for a time to grocery stores in the area. Saloo also explains how she came to occupy such a key spot at the market each week, where her loyal patrons could always expect to find her.
DES MOINES OF 1972
Saloo and her husband moved to Des Moines in 1972, when Clive was more of a rural suburb of Des Moines than the highly developed area it is today. She recalls her first impressions of the community as a new immigrant from Hyderabad, India. That quiet stretch of 86th street, for example, was not what she expected after hearing about the highly populated and busy cities of the United States.
Saloo’s family was one of a handful of Indian families to arrive in Iowa in those days, and she knew each of those families initially. It was a significant time of immigration from India, and the community grew substantially. The impetus of the migration began when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, which lifted the national-origin quotas system, opening up immigration for Southern and Eastern Europeans and Asians. Indians immigrating during this time were noted to be highly educated, and skilled professionals and many moved into small business ownership and self-employment.
SALOO AND AISHA TODAY
After retiring from the Farmer’s Market, Saloo and Aisha had no interest in slowing down. I reached out to Aisha to get an update on what they’ve been doing since they no longer have the demands of preparing for the market each week. Aisha provided this information:
At the end of the 2018 market season, Saloo retired from the Downtown and Valley Junction Farmers Markets, after 30 years. Since everything was made from scratch, the six-month market season was almost seven solid days of work. Now that that chapter of her life is over, it is a HUGE change, having all this free time. She is enjoying travel, spending time with family and friends. BUT, not one to sit still, last fall, she started selling Touchstone Crystal Jewelry, by Swarovski (Sparkle with Saloo)! This is a perfect fit for her, as she sold Fine Jewelry at Younkers for many years.
Aisha is happy to have her summers back too and looks forward to traveling. All the while she was working at the Farmers Market, she was a full-time Realtor. Aisha’s real estate business is still going strong, and the passion is still there, as she says, “I am never too busy, please keep me in mind, if you know anyone buying or selling.” Six years ago, Aisha added Legal Shield / ID Shield (pre-paid legal and identity theft protection) as an additional service to her business. Legal Shield and ID Shield offer comprehensive coverage to protect the family, business, and personal identity.
Meeting and networking comes naturally to both Saloo and Aisha, so if you see them around town, make sure you stop and say hello. The future is looking bright for these two ladies, as they start a new chapter in their lives.
I was thrilled to find this interview of The Delicious Story from a decade ago. It is weird to hear David and I banter in our show host persona, and realize all that has transpired since then. I think about those times—it was right after the economic crash of 2008, and David was in school at Drake earning his Masters in education while I was working part-time and trying to build a business. Saloo and Aisha still had nearly a decade of working at the market ahead of them. In finding and re-editing this audio treasure, I’m reminded that when we go back, we can find important nuggets worthy of review for today.
Alexandra and Sherry, 2016
Sherry is the founder of Storied Gifts a personal publishing service of family and company histories. She and her team help clients curate and craft their stories into books. When not writing or interviewing, Sherry spends loads of time with her grandchildren and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
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