Madison Oriental Market at Northgate Shopping Center on North Sherman Avenue is ready to expand their niche this summer to offer specialty groceries for those of Asian, Latino, African and Indian descent, as well as fresh produce, meat and fish, dairy and bakery. The grocery store, owned by Kyle Lee, and operated by his daughter Cynthia with assistance from his wife Choua, plays an important role in our community. The Northside is a multi-ethnic neighborhood that can feel like a food desert for those of different cultures who are often unable to find fresh food and produce that is necessary for the preparation of their cuisine.
The Lee family is Hmong and since taking over store ownership in 2017 they’ve sold Asian groceries to meet the needs of those from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, as well as African food. For the past two years, they’ve readied themselves to offer Latino and Indian food items by learning about the preferences and needs of these growing communities and looking for suppliers.
With the store’s rental lease at Northgate about to expire, 2019 seemed to be the right time to take the expansion plans to the next level before renewing the lease. The Alexander Company, owners of Northgate Shopping Center, will help with repairing and updating the interior of the store. New LED lighting will be installed, and through participation in Madison Gas and Electric and Focus on Energy programs, the lights will pay for themselves over time. To supplement their financial investment and loans, the Lee’s, with assistance from FEED Kitchens and the Northside Planning Council, are also applying for the Healthy Retail Access Program grant through the City of Madison Food Policy Council.
The changes to the store will occur in phases to make the growth more manageable. The business plan for the 4,000 square foot space includes the addition of a full kitchen, new refrigerator, and cooler and freezer units with self-service doors. A small cafe seating area at the front of the store is available to enjoy a cup of coffee, hot food and ready-to-eat refrigerated foods that can also be taken to go. Product expansion is planned for fresh produce, meat and fish, dairy, spices, baking items and more. To make it more of a one-stop shop, they’ll also sell basic household supplies. Customers will continue to be able to get halal meat, lamb and goat cut to specification and preorders of bulk food by the case.
In addition to serving the needs of the multi-ethnic community, Madison Oriental Market plans to capitalize on their location and meet the lunch needs of the employees of the Dane County Job Center and other nearby businesses. The store’s proximity to FEED Kitchens makes collaboration an easy process. Arrangements are in process to sell specialty spices and local produce to FEED members, and establish relationships to sell members’ bottled sauces and other items in the store. FEED Kitchens Bakery Training Program cookies and pastries will also be sold. By next year, they plan for their kitchen to serve as a pop-up restaurant space showcasing local chefs with diverse menus.
Madison Oriental Market is on course this year to help further meet the Northside’s diverse food access needs. Stop in to see the progress in upcoming months and to check out what they have to offer. Madison Oriental Market is located at 1197 N. Sherman Ave. in the Northgate Shopping Center. It is open 9 am–7 pm, Monday–Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am–6 pm. The phone number is 240-0846.