It is unlikely that you attend the University of South Carolina for your entire college career and do not somehow end up in Shiv’s convenience store on Main Street, in between Moe’s Southwest Grill and Sahara on Main.
Thursday through Saturday afternoons, there is a line waiting to get some alcoholic seltzers or electronic cigarettes. Each customer is bid adieu with a kind “love you” and a smile from the owner, Ketan Patel.
“I working here, everybody knows me,” Patel said. “In a campus, 50,000, 60,000 students know my name.”
Rumors have circled about Patel since the store opened in 2014. Students say Shiv’s is going out of business if the shop is closed for a day or two.
When Ketan Patel takes a day off, students worry that he has passed away or contracted the coronavirus because of his omnipresent personality in the store.
“He just talks to anyone and everyone,” said Banci Patel, Ketan’s middle daughter and a second-year biological science major at UofSC. “He asks them how their day goes and everything. He’s just very interactive with the students. So I think that’s one of the reasons why they really like him.”
Patel moved from India to the United States on July 4, 2010. He moved with his wife of nearly 27 years, Kalpana, and their children, two daughters and their son.
Banci Patel was just 8 years old when her family moved to Columbia, South Carolina.
“For [my parents], I would say it was definitely hard, like, learning a new language and, like, transitioning to a new culture because they were used to their lives in India,” Banci Patel said. “Moving here, it was definitely, like, different, but they adjusted really well.”
Ketan Patel bought the store in March of 2014, after running a successful electronic store in India for several years. The store on Main Street had previously been a convenience store, but it had been closed for several years before the Patels bought it. It took six months to renovate it into the store it is today.
“After getting the store, I noticed that their English got definitely really better because they were interacting with students every day and they got to speak more English,” Banci Patel said. “So like, their English improved and they just overall learned new things.”
Patel named the store after the supreme Hindu God, Shiva, but most customers just refer to Ketan Patel as “Shiv” or “Mr. Shiv.”
“Solely based on the interaction I’ve had with him I’d say he’s a funny guy, but a good salesman as well,” said Amir Harris, a third-year public health major at UofSC.
Patel focuses on products oriented toward students and supports student government candidates, theatre productions and other on-campus events through the various flyers posted on his walls.
The store’s success led to the opening of another store, Patel's Convenience Store, on Whaley Street. That store is managed by Ketan Patel’s brother, Bakul Patel.
In 2020, Banci Patel started an Instagram page for her father’s store that quickly gained more than 6,000 followers of devoted Shiv’s customers.
“They don’t see the behind-the-scenes, because like he’s very hardworking," Banci Patel said.
“They always see him there, but, like, he just never wants to leave the store.”
Banci’s younger brother, Hari, works at the store and is planning to attend UofSC next year. Their father being well-known has not escaped them on UofSC’s campus.
“Anyone I tell, they’re all like, ‘Oh my God, that’s insane,’” Banci said.
Banci thinks not many people recognize her father’s hardworking personality that contributes to the business’ success.
“He comes here at around 8 o’clock, he doesn’t go home until 10 o’clock on Monday to Wednesday, and Thursday, Friday, Saturday he stays open until 11,” Banci said. “So he’s always constantly working. So I would just say that [the customers] just don’t know like how hard working he is.”
Patel hopes to stay at his Main Street location for many more years to come. He views UofSC students as his own children and looks forward to seeing them.
“I love everybody just like they love me,” Patel said. “It’s the same thing, because I love my kids, you know, I love my kids.”