"It was scary. It was long hours from 7 in the morning to 10 p.m. at night," said Patel, who was shot by two men trying to rob his store in 1992.
But now he's got it down to a science.
"I saw the potential of the town," Patel said. "There were some good things where I could make my living.
"It took time to get used to the locals, and the people and what they needed," he said.
He is known around Oella as "The Mayor," because of the impact he has had there.
Every inch of wall space in the store is covered with photos of residents, drawings and paintings by their children and memorabilia from the town.
In the store Rockenbaugh and the other regulars gather to eat, talk and reminisce.
"It's a place we can congregate and socialize," he said.
"We come in here and B.S. all the time," said Jack Cofiell, another regular.
Patel often leaves Cofiell, Rockenbaugh and the other regulars in the store while he does his afternoon shopping and banking.
"He trusts all of us," Cofiell said.
"Jay, sometimes he'll go shopping around 2 or 3 (p.m.), and we leave the store at 4 (p.m.) and lock the door and go," he said.
Patel is thrilled with the success the store has seen and hopes to continue providing a gathering place for the community.
"What I had in my mind finally worked out like I wanted to after all these 31 years," he said.