Business

India Pavilion owner living American dream

Sohan Dadra pulls hot naan out of the tandoori clay oven. Sohan Dadra is the owner of India Pavilion in State College, January 6, 2015. Dadra opened the restaurant in 1997.
Sohan Dadra pulls hot naan out of the tandoori clay oven. Sohan Dadra is the owner of India Pavilion in State College, January 6, 2015. Dadra opened the restaurant in 1997. CDT photo

Sohan Dadra always thought the American dream was in his reach.

Dadra, sitting at a table for two in India Pavilion, the State College restaurant he owns, believed in it 29 years ago when he immigrated to the United States from India.

He believed in it 22 years ago, when he moved his family to New York City to live with him. And he believed in the American dream in 1997 when he opened India Pavilion.

He runs his small business with a big heart so his children could chase their dreams, too.

“Why not?” he said. “I wanted to give my children better opportunities.”

He meticulously planned his family’s move to State College for about a year.

“At that time there was no Indian restaurant in the town, but for one small, tiny vegetarian restaurant that was kind of a take-out kind of thing, but it didn’t have home-style cooking,” Dadra said. “We surveyed around the Pennsylvania area, but this town needed an Indian restaurant, the school was very good, and I thought I’d like to raise my children here.”

India Pavilion combined the things Dadra enjoys most: food and family.

The restaurant’s marquee food is northern India cuisine, which is less spicy than its southern India counterpart.

His children, son Baljinder and daughter Kuldip recalled how much their father worked in the restaurant’s early years. They’ve stepped into management roles in the past six years to lighten the load.

“It’s expected within any Asian family that you work for your family, so of course we’ve helped,” Kuldip Dadra said. “I enjoy it, and Baljinder loves it.”

The roles of father and son, at least in time spent at the restaurant, have reversed. Baljinder Dadra will take over running the restaurant. Not soon, but he puts in about 60 hours a week, about 20 more than his father.

“I absolutely love the atmosphere and customers and co-workers,” Baljinder Dadra said. “Nothing beats being your own boss, and my dad and I work well together. We believe in the same things that make the restaurant successful.”

Sohan Dadra’s business philosophy is simple.

“I think it’s about quality food and good service and our hospitality,” he said. “There is always someone from the family in the restaurant, and we all have a lot of experience. That makes a good difference for the restaurant.”

The execution, his children said, takes a lot of heart.

“Hard work is how you become successful, and it’s how you stay successful,” Kuldip Dadra said. “You have to dedicate yourself to what you want by putting your whole self into it,” she added.

“It’s not easy, it’s definitely not easy,” Baljinder Dadra added. “People go, and they see everything, and it’s a nice experience with great food and great service. The successful ones make it look easy if you do it with your heart.”

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