The Story of the REAL India Sweets & Spices

Kumar, Debra, and Kumar's parents at India Sweets & Spices in Culver City, 1990

For many in Southern California, India Sweets & Spices is a household name known for having the largest stores, best selection, and commitment to a fully vegetarian restaurant. The chain started in 1984 when it was founded by Rajinder Kumar Jawa and his father Jiwan Dass. Kumar had come to California from his home village of Nakodar in Northern India to pursue a better life for himself and his family. He would work as a dishwasher in the restaurant of a fellow Indian transplant and sold swimwear to passersby on Venice Beach despite barely speaking any English at the time. 

Through his determination, Kumar was able to save enough money to begin renting a hole-in-the-wall storefront on Venice Boulevard with room for just two aisles of grocery and a counter area for food service. It was a homey location that became a popular hub for the local Indian population and the nearby Hari Krishna Temple.

Kumar and Debra with Eric Garcetti, 2004
After the birth of Kumar and Debra Jawa’s son, Raj, the store would host an annual free food event in honor of Raj’s birthday. Anyone and everyone from far and wide could come and enjoy free Indian food on the house with no limitation. These events not only helped India Sweets & Spices thrive but also served to spread the wonderful flavors of India to those who may have never thought to try Indian food before. These free food events continue to this day at India Sweets & Spices in Los Feliz on the birthdays of both Raj and now, Kumar's daughter, Nisha.

Over the course of the 1990’s and 2000’s, Kumar would expand the presence of India Sweets & Spices to all corners of Southern California, opening locations in La Puente, Artesia, Northridge, Canoga Park, Fresno, Anaheim, Torrance, Riverside, San Diego and even as far North as Beaverton, Oregon. These grand openings were often attended by local political figures like Brad Sherman, John Chiang, and Eric Garcetti. Indian dignitaries like Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral have come to events at India Sweets & Spices locations and even some American movie stars have visited as well including John Cho and Tom Hanks while filming nearby.

Kumar and Raj with Tom Hanks, 2010
Today the Jawa family can often be seen at the India Sweets & Spices in Los Feliz where Kumar, Debra, Raj, and Nisha work diligently to keep the store doing what it does best: providing a slice of India here in California for both Indian and non-Indian alike and spreading the very best of India as far as it can reach.

India Sweets & Spices is looking to expand its legacy nationwide so if you have desires to be a part of this piece of Indo-American history, you can email Mr. Raj Jawa directly at [email protected] for more information.