A stone buffalo and two Chinese stone lions, a traditional symbol of protection, stand in front of Asia Food Market to welcome its new customers.
Asia Food Market, now the largest Asian market in the region, is stirring excitement within the Asian community at UB. The market, which opened Sept. 21, occupies most of the old Walmart on Niagara Falls Boulevard. The Buffalo location is the owners’s third and largest store. His other locations are in Syracuse and Rochester.
Variety and access to Asian food have contributed to the market’s success, according to Rocky Ren, owner of Asia Food Market.
“This supermarket matches customers’ lifestyle,” Ren said. “When I moved to Rochester, there was no market selling live fish, seafood or the produce that I wanted. I wanted to change that and now I see people are happy with my supermarkets.”
Until this point, Tianyi Asian Market and Ni Hoowa Supermarket have been the most convenient Asian stores for students living on North Campus, but students feel these stores lack variety and freshness.
Chains like Wegmans and Walmart have attempted to offer items found in Asian markets, but their higher prices push students away.
Asia Food Market offers a wide variety of Asian grocery products at an affordable rate. Students took Ubers and Zipcars to see the buzz for themselves.
They were not disappointed.
Nathan Gozar, a senior accounting major, praised the new market, noting its competitiveness against other stores.
“It’s a lot more spaceous and clean compared to other markets, “ Gozar said. “It also has a lot more products. It’s not like the other markets where there’s a box of groceries that vary each day because of the supply. This place is actually well-stocked.”
For other students, Asia Food Market is already their go-to grocery store. The market hasn’t even been open for a week, but Janet Lin, a sophomore accounting major, has already visited the store twice.
“I bought regular groceries the first time I was here,” Lin said. “I like how it has different brands. It took me forever to find [them in Buffalo], but they have this brand of Korean noodles that I love.”
Asia Food Market helps the Asian community feel at home in Buffalo. Shoppers from the New York City area mentioned how similar the new location felt to markets back home. The students said the fish tanks give the market an authentic feel.
“The fish tank is important to me. I’m from New York City and Asian markets there all have fish tanks.” Gozar said. “Having one in Buffalo makes it feel like I’m back in the city again.”
In Asian cultures, having the word “fresh” doesn’t cut it. Typically, customers would select the fish from the tank and a fishmonger would then prepare it in the back. Fishmongers sell the customers these freshly killed fish.
Ren said the fish are sent in from Brooklyn four times a week to ensure his stock stays fresh.
Yihang Zeng, a sophomore mathematics major, appreciates Ren’s devotion to his customers.
“I used to shop at Tianyi and by the end of the week, the produce was already going bad,” Zeng said. “Shipments that come in multiple times a week means fresh produce and I need that.”
This opening, already being met with warm approval from UB Students, is just the beginning. By next year, Ren plans to add a bakery and food court, selling Chinese favorites like xiaolongbao – a type of steamed Chinese bun - and egg tarts.
Zeng is from Flushing, a predominantly Chinese neighborhood in NYC. He is excited that Buffalo now has a market where he can get a taste of home.
“If they add a bakery and food court, I would be so hyped,” he said “It would be a mini Flushing and that would feel like home.”
Wanly Chen is a features staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org