‘It feels like a little taste of home’: Ethnic groceries and meals offered at local store


Ella Slade

Pammel Grocery is located at 113 Colorado Ave. in suite 133.

For anyone looking for fresh and authentic Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern food, Pammel Grocery provides groceries, hot meals and a friendly environment to the Ames community.

The store, run by Iowa alumnus Ahmad Manci and his family, opened its doors in 1987. It is the only establishment of its kind in the Ames area, providing a service for local members of the Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, Middle Eastern, African, Eastern European, and South & Central American communities.

The store was previously located on Pammel Court in Campustown, which made it popular among students and university faculty. It has since relocated to Colorado Avenue.

Pammel Grocery is known by many Ames residents for its friendly service; customers will often be greeted by the store’s owner and his family while dining in.

Joydeep Bhattacharya, an economics professor at Iowa State, has been visiting Pammel since he moved to Ames in 1999.

“I have chatted with Ahmad on multiple occasions over the years,” Bhattacharya said. “He has seen my kids grow up in front of his eyes and always remarks something to that effect when I bring them to the store.”

Bhattacharya goes to Pammel almost exclusively for Indian microwave meals, sweets, and spices and occasionally to get freshly-fried samosas.

“[Pammel] is usually a place full of people from around the world, more so because it carries both Middle-Eastern, Arab and African foods and delicacies. There’s a certain warmth and spirited conversation in the air,” Bhattacharya said.

Bhattacharya said if anyone is cooking ethnic food or anything with spices, Pammel has the best selection with unbeatable prices. He said they also offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes.

“Almost every international student and international families shop and dine there,” Bhattacharya said. “I don’t see your average American shopping there partly because the foods PG (Pammel Grocery) carries would be considered too exotic for the average American.”

Shilpa Saini, who moved to Ames in 2020, said it was hard for her to find Indian groceries at first. Saini said she found out about Pammel from people in the Ames community and faculty at Iowa State.

“I buy most of my groceries from [Pammel Grocery], especially Indian,” Saini said. “They have a variety of foods, they have fresh vegetables every Friday in the month [and] their dining is very nice for working people and for students.”

Summer Awad, a graduate student studying English, has lived in Ames for over a year and a half. Awad said that as a Palestinian American, one of the first things she looked for when preparing to move to Ames was a Middle Eastern grocery store.

Awad, whose father is from Palestine, said that growing up, she frequently ate Palestinian food for breakfast.

“I also drink a lot of black tea, and my favorite brand is Alwazah, which is usually only found at Middle Eastern groceries,” Awad said. “I also like to buy halal meat because it is free from antibiotics and hormones, and Pammel is a good source for that.”

Awad said she heard about Pammel Grocery from peers when they found out she was Palestinian, and she was happy to find they carried the grocery staples she needed to cook her favorite Palestinian dishes.

“I have run into both professors and fellow students there,” Awad said. “I think it is a huge resource, especially for international students because it is a small, intimate setting. I often find myself having conversations with people I don’t know more often than I might at a coffee shop.”

As a Palestinian American, Awad said she loves that the owner of Pammel Grocery is Palestinian.

“The [owner’s] whole family is so welcoming; they always remember my name and express an interest in getting to know me,” Awad said. “It feels like a little taste of home in a town that is still relatively new to me. I think it’s likely that all Arab-American and Desi community members are familiar with Pammel and get a lot of staples there.”