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Hick to hip

Once considered the boondocks, the northern suburbs are now the preferred destination for new malls, restaurants, cafes, bookstores and boutiques, report Lina Choudhury-Mahajan & Jasodhara Banerjee.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2009 00:54 IST

For months last year, Australian coffee boutique Aromas scoured the city for a place to locate its first outlet.

It finally opened up this March, not in Kemp’s Corner or Pali Hill, but Powai.

“We looked at several locations, including Bandra, but found that it was Powai that had everything we needed,” said Jayant Mhaiskar, chairman and managing director of Ideal Hospitality, the Australian chain’s Indian partner. “It has a good mix of residential, business and expatriate communities, all potential customers.”

Over the past few months, shops and restaurants have been falling over themselves to open up in the northern suburbs, considered the boondocks a few years ago.

They are merely chasing the money. Most young people with disposable incomes are buying flats in the northern suburbs because they just not afford homes in south Mumbai and Bandra.

“A growing consumer base with the power to spend is located in the northern suburbs now,” said Bishnu Das, assistant vice-president at Bistro Hospitality, which runs the restaurant Thank God It’s Friday in Andheri, West.

The change is visible. Not long ago, a few housing societies stood out across vast expanses of land in these suburbs. Today, they are dwarfed by malls, multiplexes, schools and hospitals.

“I used to live in Malad for almost 15 years,” said Dinyar Mistry, a 27-year-old employee of job search website naukri.com, who subsequently moved to Andheri, West. “We had to go to town for everything – for good food and partying. Today, I don’t need to move beyond Andheri for a thing.”

The biggest malls in the city are now in the northern suburbs. “We have two malls -- Nirmal Lifestyle and R Mall,” said Sriram Ramchandran, 23, who lives in Mulund with his parents. “They have made life much easier in the suburbs. My family and I go to Big Bazaar or Shoprite in these malls once a month for groceries. I go there frequently to watch movies.”

Restaurants, clothing stores and bookstores have also mushroomed.

To cite just a few examples: India’s first Manchester U restaurant, themed around the English Premier League football club, will soon come up across 5,000 to 7,000 square feet in Mulund.

Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor chose Powai as the venue for his first restaurant in Mumbai, The Yellow Chilly, which opened a month ago.

The Rose Group opened its most recent Watches & More outlet in Vashi last October. It has also one outlet each in Goregaon and Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri.

Arguably the best bookstore in Mumbai, the Chennai-headquartered Landmark chain’s sole outlet in the city, is located in Andheri, West. It plans to open an outlet in south Mumbai, but for years, in a reversal, many book lovers from south Mumbai and Bandra have been trekking north.

The northern suburbs now also have top-notch schools and hospitals.

“My three-year-old daughter goes to Thakur Public School in Kandivli,” said Reshma Pai, 33, a public relations professional, who lives in this suburb. “I admitted my sick grandmother to Sancheti Hospital nearby. We have no reason to go to south Mumbai.”