Drive swiftly along Oak Tree Road, and it seems like a commonplace suburban boulevard lined with rows of stores of no distinctive character.
But slow down, and a clear identity comes into focus: Most of the stores are owned by someone with roots in India, including Patel’s Cash and Carry, Indus American Bank, Bengali Sweet House, and Saree Bazaar. In fact, the Exxon gas station is owned by an Indian and half of the eight screens at Movie City are showing films from Bollywood, not Hollywood.
Oak Tree Road, which runs through this sprawling town of 100,000 people and into neighboring Woodbridge Township, may be America’s liveliest Little India, with 400 Indian businesses that attract Indian immigrants from across the region. But the impact is more than just commercial. Indians make up from 20 to 25 percent of the population, and they have spearheaded the transformation of Edison — an overwhelmingly blue-collar and middle-class white community a generation ago — into a town with a decidedly Asian flavor.