Many Manhattan residents know Danny Fang’s Bamboo buffet on Fort Riley Boulevard. Although this business was successful, in October 2010 Fang also opened Asian Market, one of six ethnic groceries operating here. The demand for international food has grown as the number of foreign students at K-State has increased.
Three of the ethnic groceries are Asian and three are Hispanic. That reflects the composition of the minority presence. According to Census Bureau, Hispanics (5.8 percent) and Asians (5.1 percent) are the main minorities in the city’s approximately 52,000 residents.
Fang initially decided to target the Asian population, most of whom were Chinese, exclusively. But he found customers coming to him from other Asian countries. He wasn’t aware that many ingredients in Chinese cuisine are similar to those in Korean and Japanese.
“The thing is everybody eats the same thing,” Fang said “I didn’t know it.”
When non-Chinese shoppers started to ask whether Fang could bring in foods they couldn’t find anywhere else, he expanded the number of commodities he carried. That expanded the nature of the market.
“You can see the sign; it says international. We added it later,” Fang said. “We bring more and more people.”
Today the Asian market sells foods from all over the world. You can find Middle Eastern grape leaves, Jamaican beef patties and oyster mushrooms. The variety makes the grocery unique in the region. The closest international grocery of the same type and size is in Kansas City, which is why a good number of customers are residents of other towns. Fang estimates that as much as 30 per cent of all shoppers come from Junction City.
“Because of the military…the military is a mixture of everybody,” Fang said. “I can’t wait when the (roadwork between Manhattan and Junction City) is done. It will help.”
Students make up only around 20 per cent of Asian Market customers. One of the reasons is its location on Fort Riley Boulevard some distance from campus. An Asian grocery in Aggieville serves predominantly students. It is run by Dongchen Hao.
Hao opened the Chinese Grocery Store three years ago at the intersection of 12th and Moro St. targeting Chinese students. Many of the foods are frozen dumplings and wontons that can be easily boiled.
“Some students don’t know how to cook. Their parents cooked for them in China,” Hao explained. “Some students know how to cook, but they are too busy; they have to study every day. They do not have enough time.”
Both groceries’ owners note that Americans shop in their groceries as well as internationals. Hao is realizing he need to go beyond Chinese food.
“Local residents prefer to cook Japanese or Korean food,” Hao said. “Sometimes I think they don’t know too much about Chinese food because it’s a little bit complex to cook it.”
Starting from August, Hao is going to sell Indian, Korean and Japanese food. Although his tiny grocery in Aggieville cannot fit new stores, he is going to sell new commodities online.
“I think it’s hard to do it but I want to try,” Hao said. “In the future I think every business will do that.”