The Madison Oriental Market held a grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony of their store on the morning of Nov. 8.
The ceremony happened at the store location at Northgate Shopping Center on North Sherman Avenue, with about 50 guests. The store had been undergoing renovations for the past few months and welcomed guests to the new and improved store. The ceremony started with speeches from the store owners, Kyle and Choua Lee, more speeches from different partnered organizations, as well as a Hmong ritual to bless to store.
The Lee family, who are Hmong, acquired the business a few years ago. With the renovations, they made the market more energy-efficient, while keeping their niche in providing Asian, Latino and African foods, as well as fresh produce, meat, fish, dairy and a bakery.
“We have worked really hard for a long time and we are really grateful for everyone supporting us,” Kyle Lee said. “I’d like to thank the City of Madison for making this all possible. Because of the city investment in a small business like us, we are able to grow and expand and better serve our community.”
Madison Oriental Market was awarded a grant from the Healthy Retail Access Program from the City of Madison Food Policy Council. The market was able to apply for the grant with help from the Northside Planning Council. Both councils, as well as the Madison Gas and Electric company and Focus Energy, were in attendance and gave a few words.
“We were glad to work with the family to help with putting in energy efficiency equipment,” said Jeff Danielson from Focus Energy, a statewide energy efficiency program. Danielson noted that the family would be saving about $8,000 every year by using energy-efficient equipment and then presented the family with a check of $7,673.
“For the last 11 months, it’s been an absolute pleasure to get to know the Lee family as they worked on this phenomenal project,” said Abha Thakkar, executive director of the Northside Planning Council. “A huge thank you to the Lee family for taking this enormous risk and doing all of the work that is required to give our community another full-service grocery store.”
With that, two Hmong elders blessed the store in a traditional ritual and the ribbon-cutting commenced. Then, the Lee family invited the guests to stay for food and celebrate with them.
“I loved [the ceremony]” said Cynthia Lee, their daughter, and operator of the store. “I like that quite a lot of people came in to see us off and see all the new changes that we made to the store. We’ve always wanted to serve hot food and now that we finally reached it, I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m just hoping that I can keep up with the demand.”
Kyle Lee immigrated to Madison with his father in the 80s, left, and then came back before acquiring the market. He came back, in part, due to him knowing that Madison was where he wanted to be.
“We came back to the community, this is where we belong,” he said.