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‘A little dream I had’: Worcester Public Market allows chef from India to accomplish her goal of opening Namaste Woo in Canal District

Amid the hundreds of people who squeezed into the Worcester Public Market when it opened on a chilly February night in 2020, Pooja Bissal stood among the crowd and envisioned her future.

As she looked around at the diverse group of vendors, the owner of Namaste Woo felt at home in the market located in the Canal District.

“It was a little dream I had. Oh yes, I wanted to be here,” Bissal said. “I love the place.”

Namaste Woo first arrived at the Worcester Public Market on the shelves of the Market Pantry in the form of ready-to-cook meals. The kits specialized in Indian cuisines from recipes Bissal’s mother, who lives in India, passed down to her.

Two weeks ago, Bissal opened her own space inside the market with ready-to-eat meals that also featured family recipes.

“My meal kit customers were like, ‘OK, you gave us ready-to-cook, now give us ready-to-eat,’” Bissal said.

Bissal’s dream inched toward reality several months ago when Tina Zlody, who operates the Market Pantry, suggested Namaste Woo inquire about one of the several vendor openings at the market. In the year and a half since it opened, the market reshuffled its layout creating a few open spots for vendors.

Bissal jumped at the opportunity as Namaste Woo now sits between Pacha Mama, a Peruvian restaurant, which is also new, and Pasta Mani.

“People were welcoming,” Bissal said. “For me, it was like really, am I here? Is it true? I had a dream of opening one such place like this. And it happened. I’m really thankful to the almighty and the people who supported me.”
Bissal is quick to point out every person who helped Namaste Woo become one of the market’s newest additions. Zlody initiated the contact between Bissal and Worcester Public Market founder and president Allen Fletcher and Executive Director Domenic Mercurio.

She also credited EforAll Worcester for its guidance and knowledge of opening a new business.

“It’s really exciting. It’s like watching a child grow up. They learn how to walk, they learn how to run and now they’re taking on so many additional responsibilities. This is a big step forward for them to get a physical infrastructure,” said Raj Melville, the executive director of the Deshpande Foundation and who Bissal refers to as a mentor.
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