The mention of the word Gilanis to Nakuru County residents raises an image of one of the oldest supermarkets in the region.
For over 48 years, the supermarket has dominated the business that bears the family name and has stood tall as a beacon in the town.
Founded in 1972 by family patriarch Mr. Ghulam Hussein and his sons Salim and Nazmi, the supermarket began as a grocery store called Gilani’s Agencies.
It was a little corner shop located on Pandit Nehru Road near the present day Tusky’s store in Nakuru Town’s Central Business District.
Mr. Zahir Gilani, one of the directors of the business, vividly remembers how their business all began.
He recalls how on the first day of business, the total sales was a paltry Sh196.
“That was all we talked about at the family dinner table that day. Sh196!” he recalls.
And what started as a three digit profit has hit a seven figure and still counting. The business is regarded as one of the most successful ones in the region that has attracted the industry’s big boys.
As the business grew, the proprietors embarked on an expansion strategy. In 1974, the supermarket moved to its current location on Club Road, off Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru Town.
The landmark building, which has stood the test of time, has become a reference to surrounding buildings and businesses.
Earlier, the building where Gilanis set their first shop, was a showroom of the defunct Hughes Motors Company.
Past images reveal a picaresque building set along a quiet and clean Nakuru Town. This is contrary to a chaotic and noisy town whose CBD is a crowded eyesore.
The front of the supermarket building has maintained its 1970’s architectural façade, complete with its clock tower spire and palm trees.
However, a look at the back of the building reveals a cacophony of extension that has given birth to over five-storey warehouse for stock.
Gilanis Supermarket has remained ahead of its competitors in the region, thanks to the strong family presence in the running of the business.
Nearly every member of the Gilani family has worked or launched their businesses by working in the family business. This ensured a steady flow of manpower which has kept the family business intact for more than four decades.
Today, the company is still run by the family and supervised by five directors. The youngest two of whom are among the third generation of the Gilani family to run the business.
Another key feature of the business has been its commitment to Nakuru town. The supermarket, which hires locals, is one of the largest employment hubs in Nakuru Town.
Some of the employees, who have seen the family business grow from scratch, have risen through the ranks to senior managers.
Gilanis has expanded to hospitality industry in Nakuru. Gilanis Restaurant is regarded as meeting point for lovers as its cafeteria, dining and bar-lounge has some of the most alluring ambience for clients.
The restaurant offers catering services to major corporate and entertainment events in the county.
Walking through “The Penalty Box”, the restaurant’s and Nakuru’s most modern and trendy sports bar christened Gilanis Bar, it is hard to imagine it is part of Gilanis Supermarket. The directors who ran the supermarket by day execute disco duties officially at night.
This atmosphere still pervades the business today. No work is ever too small. It is a spirit of pursuing new ideas backed by hard work.
Standing in front of the Supermarket today, one realises that while much of the town has changed, Gilanis has withstood the test of time in the cosmopolitan town that is regarded as the face of Kenya.
Just a block away from the supermarket, stands the Gilanis Tower One building, Nakuru’s tallest commercial building.
And to keep abreast with changing technological advances in the industry, the supermarket has recently also undergone a transformation by becoming the first Nakuru-based commercial outlet to go online.