Mission Hill businesses cutting through COVID-19 challenges Punjab Mini Mart

Watch how Mission Hill businesses adapt and get creative through challenges posed by COVID-19 to remain open for residents and students.


Editor’s note: 

Mission Hill is one of Boston’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods and an area where students have started to become the predominant group in the past years, driving up rents and driving out locals. The arrival of students added to the process of gentrification in the neighborhood and also enabled local businesses catering to college students to flourish. This Fall semester, a fraction of students returned to Boston due to COVID-19, reducing both the flow of customers as well as part-time employees working for local shops. This video series tells stories of four Mission Hill small businesses, beloved by residents and students, are adapting to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Punjab Mini Mart

There are not many Indian grocery stores in Mission Hill so when the statewide lockdown due to COVID-19 started, Punjab Mini Mart’s owner Rakesh Soni received frequent phone calls from customers to reopen the store for a few hours each day.

The humble shop on Tremont street has been open for almost 15 years, offering students and students essentials for Indian foods. 

Before the pandemic, Soni said, the majority of his customers are students. 

“Before I closed it was kind of busy because you know like people are doing panic buying,” he said. “But yeah once it was closed, three months no revenue, and then it took some time to pick up. But [there is] still not like that many students so it’s not up, the business is down.”

Besides running the mini mart, Soni said he also rents out two apartments upstairs of the store. “[They’re] always rented by December or January for the next September,” he said. “This year they are not rented … Without students it is hard to survive.”

Owner of Punjab Mini Mart Rakesh Soni shares how the store navigated challenges posed by COVID-19 and reopened to Mission Hill residents and students in the video below.


Love this series? The last business featured, Tavern of Tales, will be posted next week, Nov. 10.

Are you a small business owner in Mission Hill wanting to be featured in this series? Let us know at [email protected].

Videos in this series are produced by journalism students in a class at Northeastern University taught by Professor Jody Santos. See more of their videos in our Early Voting series.


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