Asia Food Co. Vendor Spotlight: Offers a Fresh Take on the Supermarket Experience
Welcome to Asia Food Company, located inside of Cleveland’s Asian Town Center, a sprawling retail and community space on the corner of Superior Avenue and E 38th Street, Asia Food Co. has been in business for a quarter of a century. The modest market is a testament to the feeling that you don’t have to leave Cleveland to feel as if you’re traveling the world.
The first thing you notice immediately after clearing the entryway, are the colors.
Brilliant pinks, reds, yellows, and greens invite the eyes to meet aisles of imported products from all over Asia. I find myself picking up jars of anchovies, preserved duck eggs, candy sticks with unrecognizable flavors, adorned with illustrations of characters that intrigue me, unlike anything I’d been familiarized with in childhood while roving the cereal aisle.
It’s a lively environment inside the grocery store, as music mingles with the laughter of friendly cashiers at the front. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” narrates my movements as I walk leisurely down the aisles. I’ve put away the notebook and pen I’d brought along, now more concerned with finding a basket than writing an article.
The second thing you’ll notice upon closer inspection is the quality.
In the produce aisle: Korean melons, Thai coconuts, and Fuji apples are just a few examples of Asia Food Co.’s variety of healthy options. In fact, the store is loaded with vegetarian and vegan products: Chinese eggplant, Thai eggplant, Korean radishes, and lemon grass to name just a few. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry omnivores– as I turn away from the banana flowers, I see options for you too.
Asia Food Co. does seafood but instead of run-of-the-mill lobster tanks, you can find live Tilapia, blue shell crab, scallops, and even frogs.
There’s an emphasis on freshness at the store. Everyday from 11-8 pm, roasted and partially roasted duck is prepared and ready for sale. At the bakery, I can still feel the heat emanating off the homemade pork dumplings and almond cookies. If you’re sunburned this summer, cardboard boxes filled with giant slabs of aloe plants are at your disposal. What’s better than going right to the source? Asia Food Company is all about it.
I ask an employee if the manager is in today, but she already happens to be standing behind me. We stand in front of the roasted duck, talking about the neighborhood and what Nancy, the owner, thinks of Cleveland.
I ask her about the grilled foods that Asia Food Co. prepares specially for Night Market Cleveland events.
“We sell kimchi ramen, egg rolls, sesame balls, fried rice, steamed buns, grilled chicken kabobs, and fish skewers.” Nancy has a clipboard in her hand and things to do. The grocery store is getting busier as the day goes on. “Bubble tea and lemonade too,” she says, smiling, before walking away.
I’m on my way to check out when I spot the ice cream. The Taiwanese “pearl milk tea” bars almost seem to glimmer when I think about the August heat.
I notice one last thing while purchasing a jar of iridescent anchovies for a friend. At a time when the cost of food is rising, Asia Food Co. provides their high quality groceries to the community at reasonable prices. Who knew that seeing a piece of the world normally found on the opposite side of the globe, could be done on a budget?
photographs by Breanna Kulkin