New market bus to Asia Food Market popular among students

Asian students appreciate bus to grocery store

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It’s a Saturday afternoon and Ninghui Jin is doing his weekly shopping at Asia Food Market on Niagara Falls Boulevard. 

Jin, a junior electrical engineering major, said before the market opened last semester, no supermarkets in the area stocked Asian produce, cooking supplies and snacks that he frequently bought in his hometown of Fuzhou. 

But he had one problem; he doesn’t have a car and had to pay for an Uber every time he wanted to shop at the market. 

But now, thanks to a new partnership between the supermarket and UB parking and transportation, every Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., a specialty market bus transports students to and from Asia Food Market. 

“It’s amazing. I’ve spent a lot of money Ubering to the market and now I don’t have to. That makes me really happy,” Jin said. “It’s all about convenience. For students like me who don’t have cars, especially international students who do the bulk of their shopping at the market, this is a great new feature on campus.”

The market is the largest Asian market in the region and sells fresh vegetables, meat, seafood, snacks and cooking ingredients used in Asian cuisines. In the year since its opening, many students have been to the market to buy specialty foods and classic favorites, like instant noodles. 

Parking and Transportation Services senior staff assistant John Kisker said the response to the new bus route has been “remarkable” and that hundreds of students have utilized the specialized bus route. On the first day of service on Aug. 28, the bus transported 93 students. Last Tuesday, 282 students rode the bus over the course of four hours. 

Kisker said new bus routes are determined by student input. After many international students reached out to the office asking for transportation, it decided to add the new route. 

“Soon after it opened, students expressed an interest in having the Asia Food Market added to our mall [and] market service in comments on transportation surveys and in emails,” Kisker said. “Simultaneously, Asia Market management reached out to [us] with their desire to better serve UB students.”

Starting this semester, the market is paying roughly $10,500 per semester for advertising and transportation, according to Andrew Ren, a manager at the supermarket. 

Ren said the market is slowly becoming more popular with UB students, but he thinks not enough students know about the market or are able to transport themselves there. One of the main reasons the market partnered with UB, he said, is to increase students’ awareness of the market and cater to students who don’t have cars. 

“Right now we do see some students come to shop at the market and a decent amount come from the [Stampede] bus,” Ren said. “I’d estimate 10 percent of our customers are UB students, but that’s too low. We would like to increase that number.”

Students who shop at the market are thrilled to save a few bucks on gas or Uber money by using the bus. 

Huy Dang, a freshman biomedical engineering major, is a regular shopper at the market. He said, unlike other Asian markets in Buffalo, Asia Food Market carries the widest selection of meats and vegetables used in Asian cooking. 

Dang said he thinks it’s good for Asian students to have access to the market because it provides a taste of home, making it easier to acclimate to living in Buffalo and America. 

“For the Asian population at UB, especially for the international students, it’s very helpful for the transition to living in America,” Dang said. “We don’t really have like a Chinatown here with these types of markets. It’s a whole different world in there.”

Dang said the market also does a good job of catering to most Asian countries, not just East Asian countries. 

“A lot of countries that UB has international students from are represented –– India, Korea, Vietnam, China, Japan, etc.,” Dang said. “It’s really like a whole different world in there. It’s very unique to Buffalo and I’m happy it’s close to campus.” 

Other students, like Hoan Tran, a junior computer science major, said they are happy that the bus route was added, but are skeptical about its timeliness. He said that with so many students wanting to ride the bus, it might be too slow to keep up with demand. 

“I used to use the market bus to [get to] Wegmans, but it was really slow, so I started to drive again,” Tran said. “Regardless, the market buses are normally on Saturday, so I like that now we have an option to shop during the school week.”

Ren said he’s already seen an increase in students shopping because of the bus. He said, in the future, he hopes to see more students –– international and domestic –– shopping at the supermarket. 

“I think it’d be great if we saw some domestic students shopping here too,” Ren said. “I think food is a great way to learn about new cultures, and there are a lot of rich cultures at UB.”

Ren said the second half of the store will open next year, as the store is currently using half of an old Wal-Mart building. The second half will act like a mini mall with a food court. He invites all students to come and try the market’s fresh foods and new shopping items when it opens. 

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Max_Kalnitz