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Queens Week: Willits Point Company Spices Up Queens

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In the following Queens Week report, NY1's Ruschell Boone profiles a family-run business that's been spicing things up in Willits Point for decades.

If you can't find Indian spices at your local store, just make them yourself. Gordhandas Soni says that was his thought when he decided to open the House of Spices 35 years ago.

"Most of the stuff we wanted you couldn't find anywhere," says Soni.

But now you can find it at the Willets Point company that's nestled between the auto shops in the Iron Triangle. The company makes ethnic foods and spices that include pickles, pastes, chutneys, snack foods, Indian sweets, flour and various types of curry powders.

Their products are sold in supermarkets across the country; Soni says the mainstream market has realized the need for ethnic foods of all kind.

"We are getting into a lot of supermarkets. In the early days, when I use to go to the supermarket, they would say, 'ok, you want to keep it, I don't want it,' " says Soni.

The company began as a small store front in Jackson Heights. At that time Soni and his brother, both Indian immigrants, had very little money. But, he says, they had the American dream to build a business.

"One of my friends was an accountant, and when I told him I wanted to do business he just laughed," says Soni. "But I told him also in America, you don't need money. You need the ability to work hard, integrity and pay the bills on time.

That was then this is now. The business has grown into a multi-million dollar corporation that employs 130 people. It also has about a dozen distribution centers across the country.

"The business is very good, and we are very popular in our community," says supervisor Ramesh.

In addition to making its own products the company also imports ethnic spices from places like India and a number of African countries.

Soni says the business will eventually be handed down to his son and nephew.

"Yes, of course it will be handed over to them, but I will be here for a very long time," says Soni.

Soni might be around for a long time, but he's not sure how much longer his business will remain in Willets Point. The city is threatening to take over the area through eminent domain to make way for redevelopment. Soni and other business owners are trying to fight the plan, but he says his company will remain in Queens even if they lose the battle

- Ruschell Boone

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