New owners of Country Corner bring a taste of India to the island

Like many, Monti Sodhi’s relationship with Orcas Island began with Camp Orkila.

Sodhi, who with his wife Arora are the new owners of Eastsound’s Country Corner, ranks his first visit to the iconic YMCA camp as one of his fondest memories.

“I was in the fifth grade at Newport Hills Elementary School in Bellevue, and it was my first overnight trip away from my parents, and my very first ferry ride. It was thrilling,” he remembers.

In his senior year of high school, Monti had a chance to again visit the camp as a counselor for the day. That chance evolved into an opportunity to work for a year as a camp counselor — a year that strengthened his appreciation for the island’s beauty and culture.

Both Monti and Arora were born in India. Arora’s family emigrated to Canada; Monti’s first to Germany, then Washington where they came to own a string of convenience stores and gas stations.

“The retail world is what I grew up with,” Monti explained, “and I love it.”

After earning an AA degree from Bellevue College, and following in his father’s footsteps, Monti knew he would eventually need to find his own store – to make his own mark.

“My father started to remind me that I wasn’t getting any younger, that I needed to get married and strike out on my own. He would say, ‘You can’t get the chair that easily,’ which meant I needed to buy my own business,” Monti said.

Curiously, Arora’s father was saying much the same to her. Unlike Monti who grew up in the world of business, Arora grew up in academia. She received her M.D. in Europe, specializing in neurology; practiced in India for a time, and then earned a Master’s in Science while living in Canada. Her life at the time of the “phone call” was filled with research and publishing. As it turns out, both fathers were frequenting a website for Indian parents looking for suitable mates for their children.

“One day I came home from work and my father showed me a photo of this lovely woman on his phone. ‘Call her,’ Monti said. ‘Tonight!’

He did. The call went to voicemail. Arora’s father had shown her a photo of Monti and said to expect a call from him. She let it go to voicemail. Arora did some research and when Monti called again, she answered. They courted long-distance for nearly two years.

“My world experience was academia. When Monti and I decided to make a life together, I knew I would learn so much. And I have. It’s a tremendous education,” Arora said.

While perusing the internet for businesses for sale, Monti came upon the Country Corner property but it was unclear where it was located. When they told their agent they were interested and wanted to make an offer, they learned the owners wanted to meet the prospective buyers.

“That’s when we learned the property was on Orcas Island,” Monti said.

And in true Orcas fashion, connections were everywhere. The property’s manager at the time worked the kitchen at Camp Orkila when Monti was a counselor.

“They asked lots of questions. They wanted to know what our vision was for the property. It was as though we were being interviewed,” offered Arora.

“It’s because we were!” laughed Monti.

In the end, the interview was a success, and Monti and Arora assumed ownership of Country Corner on November 3, 2023. They could not be happier.

“Everyone’s been great, offering help and counsel whenever we ask,” Monti shared.

Store Manager Annie Potts, who has been with Country Corner for over 10 years, has been delighted with the acceptance the community has shown Monti and Arora.

Arora noted that all the vendors have been great, helping to get the store prepped for transfer of ownership. Though her first trip to Orcas was to meet with the former owners, she feels increasingly comfortable on the island.

The enthusiasm of the new owners is apparent. From new offerings (check out The Naan Stop for take-out Indian food) to new hours and increased staff, Monti and Arora are looking forward to contributing to the island they now call home. Come by and share in the return of Country Corner Day on Saturday, May 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy hot dogs, the famous root beer floats, games, a bouncy castle for the kids, giveaways, music, and loads of fun.

Both agree it’s been a long journey, and worth every minute. Turning to his wife, Monti smiled.

“It’s always felt like it was meant to be,” he said.

Arora smiled back, “It does, it really does.”