BY LYNN EDMONDS
Frosted Flakes, Quaker Oats, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Aunt Jemima’s Syrup, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Jet-puffed Marshmallows, canned Goya beans, Skippy peanut butter and Smucker’s jelly are a few of the products that have made it into the new “American and Mexican” food aisle at New York Mart.
The supermarket, located at the intersection of Bowne Street and Roosevelt Avenue, announced they had expanded and more clearly designed their array of “western” products at a joint press conference with Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and the Holly Civic Association on Friday.
The expansion was a collaborative effort between the three parties after the Holly Civic Association reached out to Koo about a lack of grocery options for their members. Koo in turn contacted CEO of New York Mart Deng Long, who agreed to take action to stock more non-Chinese inventory.
On a tour of the supermarket, civic members commented that the supermarket had also put up more English-language signage.
The 2010 census found that Flushing is 52 percent Asian, up from 48 percent 2000. As Flushing’s Asian population has grown over the past 30 years, the supermarkets that did not cater to this large demographic saw their business dwindle. Many went out of business, including a Key Food on Parsons Boulevard that closed in June 2012 and Met Food Market on 41-62 Bowne St. that closed in July 2015.
But those closures hurt some long-time residents of the once predominately white neighborhood. Whereas the Met Food had offered free delivery for purchases over $25, now members of the Holly Civic Association said that they had to trek long distance to find familiar products to stock their pantry. They complained that senior citizens had to lug heavy grocery bags or take buses across town in a time-consuming endeavor.
In a quest for solutions, the civic reached out to Koo, who advocated for the supermarket to stock more “American” products.
“Neighborhood supermarkets are indispensable to a healthy community, and it is important that their wares reflect the needs of the residents,” Koo said.
The supermarket quickly agreed to diversify their offerings to include more traditional American products,” he added.
“New York Mart is committed to providing quality groceries to the Flushing community and we always welcome the opportunity to interact directly with our shoppers. Our store prides itself on being a good neighbor, and we are happy to expand our shelves and provide products that reflect the diversity of residents here in Flushing,” CEO Deng Long said in a statement.
Joyce Huang, a store assistant, invited customers to approach her desk to request additional items.
Denise Winters and a handful of members from the Holly Civic Association smiled as Koo and supermarket representatives seemed to show them, through the expansion, a commitment to and a concern for their needs.
“I’d like to thank New York Mart for adding more groceries to its inventory that cater to the senior citizens in our community.
A good business is also a good neighbor that listens to its community, and we are grateful to have this opportunity to open a dialogue with our local supermarket,” Winters said.
One member of the civic, however, Mary Robinson, said she wasn’t completely satisfied with the range of products, saying that many sale items could not be found there. Pointing to a bottle of honey marked $8.99, she said the products were overpriced.
“I will show them it’s cheaper at other stores,” she said.
For the most part, however, the expansion was celebrated as a win-win by all, including the Councilman.
“Flushing is one of the most diverse communities in the country where people from around the world come to live, work and play. With so many difficult cultures, food and languages, it can be easy to let our differences divide us, but we are here today to focus on how we can come together despite our differences, celebrate our diversity and work to find solution to the problems that different cultures can sometimes face,” Koo said.
But he cautioned the residents that the new products were not “guaranteed,” and that their continued presence in the supermarket was contingent upon enough people buying them.