A former Walmart in suburban Naperville will be home to an ambitious cultural complex for Indian food, private events, stores, and more. It’s called Mall of India and the goal is to create a mini Devon Avenue under one roof. The plans call for a food court that will house 10 restaurants including the all-vegan Art of Dosa. There’s also a 25,000-square-foot South Asian grocery store.
In addition to Art of Dosa, the Port of Peri Peri (formerly Porto’s Peri Peri) will join the lineup, as well as Indo-Chinese and Gujarati stalls. Plans also include a restaurant that offers pizza and wraps made with halal ingredients that should be popular with children. Other stalls will feature ice cream, Indian snacks, and juices. Expect 10 restaurants total including a biryani station. Plans also include a banquet hall for weddings and other private events. Don’t expect everything to open at once, as the project will unfurl in stages.
There will be inevitable comparisons to Mitsuwa, the Japanese grocery store in Arlington Heights, and the Super H Mart in Niles, part of the Korean supermarket chain. But what owner Vinoz Chanamolu is planning dwarfs those projects. Other aspects of the mall include a bevy of non-food entertainment options and more such as children’s daycare services, cricket and baseball batting cages, plus movie theaters. It’s the first of its kind and Chanamolu hopes to build more in other parts to the country. The massive space is 100,000 square feet.
“We are creating an experience,” Chanamolu said.
Construction is inching towards a planned opening in March or April. Level Construction is converting the former Walmart. The company also handled the buildout for Art of Dosa’s location in Revival Food Hall in the Loop.
Chanamolu, who announced the project in March 2018, wears many hats including restaurateur. He’s behind the Hyderabad House, a chain of restaurants with locations on Devon in Chicago, plus in suburban Buffalo Grove, Naperville, and Schaumburg. A location is also planned to open inside the mall.
The food court will serve halal meat and no beef to keep up with Muslim and Hindu traditions. Chanamolu stressed the quality of ingredients, as some South Asian restaurants have been slow to embrace organic foods. They’re more expensive, and some suppliers who can provide speciality ingredients don’t have the connections with vendors who frequent farmer’s markets around the city.
Over the last few decades, Chicagoans have associated Devon Avenue in Rogers Park with the city’s South Asian population. But like all retail, Internet ordering has lessened the need for physical stores. South Asians aren’t spending as much time on Devon and the strip is changing.
“There is no need [to go],” Chanamolu said “Previously, you’d go for grocery, clothing, gold — whatever you needed — you’d go to Devon.”
But now many South Asians who grew up in other states and moved to Chicago are moving to the suburbs. And they don’t want to drive to Devon in the city for their needs. Chanamolu imagines parents going to the mall and shopping, grabbing dinner to go, and then picking up their children from the daycare. Floor plans show 27,000 square feet reserved for a day care center/kids activities.
“Each business complements each other,” Chanamolu said.
The floor plans also allocate 25,000 square feet for the grocery store. In December, Patel Brothers, the iconic Indian supermarket chain, took over a former Toys R Us in suburban Niles to open a new 28,000-square-foot flagship location. The grocery store inside the mall will be about 25,000 square feet which Chanamolu said is about the size of Patel Brothers’s Naperville location.
Mall of India, 776 S. Route 59, Naperville, planned for a March/April opening, the restaurants’s debuts will be staggered.