Featuring ethnic food items and regular groceries all under one roof, Grand Mart International Market will open Saturday in Centreville. It's in Centreville Square in the spot formerly occupied by Shoppers Food Warehouse.
It's owned by Man Min Corp. of Annandale, consisting of some 25 brothers, sisters and cousins with two decades of experience in wholesale foods in Washington, D.C. They're now branching out into retail and are doing it in a big way. They opened a similar store in Germantown, Md., two months ago, and will open a Gaithersburg market in mid-November.
"We are a family-owned business," said Bobby Kim, manager of the Centreville store. "For the past 10 years, we've been planning to open a retail business and have been gathering the resources."
He said they chose the site at 5900 Centreville Crest Lane because the space was available and it was large enough for what they wanted to do. "There's easy access to I-66 and Routes 28 and 29, and the area is not overly populated like downtown," said Kim. "And it's not congested like Annandale, Falls Church or Fairfax."
Some 40 percent of the new store will contain the items a traditional grocery store would carry, and the other 60 percent will be devoted to Asian — Chinese, Japanese, Korean — and Hispanic foods. Kim's ethnic background is Korean so, naturally, he knows these products best.
But from the family's wholesale business in D.C., the members know lots of vendors who provide advice on what are the popular Hispanic items in various areas of Central and South America and Mexico. Then, said Kim, their distributors give them the opportunity to sell these products. They even plan to eventually offer some Caribbean foods.
Asian noodles are expected to be one of the store's biggest sellers. "Asians take their noodle dishes very seriously," said Kim. "Every different country has its own ways of preparing them — steamed, fried, baked, boiled or in soup." Several types of sauces such as soy and teriyaki will also be available, as well as candies and cookies from the Far East.
The store's basic layout is the same as SFW's, but it will be a bit more open and spacious. One of the highlights, said Kim, will be a fresh-fish section where customers may have their selections cleaned, boned and deveined on the spot. "It'll depend on the customers' preference," he said. "However they want it, we will trim it."
Besides the usual salmon, shrimp and filet of sole, Grand Mart will also offer monk fish, calamari (squid) and octopus. It will also have seasonal varieties available. "Nowadays, we can order from Norway, Maine, Boston, etc., and it'll be here the next day or that same day," said Kim. "That's one of the advantages we have from being in wholesale — we accumulated a lot of outlet sources."
The store will also emphasize its fruit and vegetable sections. In addition to traditional items, customers will be introduced to "exotic vegetables unknown to everyday Giant and Safeway customers," said Kim.
These include onchoy, hon choy and chuy sam (all similar to bok choy), plus Chinese broccoli, Korean onions (like Vidalia onions, but a bit tart), suk got (looks like a daisy plant and is used in salad), mallow (a root plant with a tangy flavor; for lightly steamed and marinated dishes) and dropwort (like watercress, but with a more bitter taste).
The fruit section will also be an adventure. For example, customers will be able to choose from six different types of pears, alone, including the shinko pear — an Asian pear used for snacking, cooking and in sauces. Kim said customers will find lots of surprises here, and he's looking forward to seeing them discover each new treat.
Grand Mart will be open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Telephone: 703-266-2220. Kim believes the store will do well here and he's eager to get things underway.
"It'll be a new experience, once customers come in here," he said. "It won't be an everyday grocery store. Walking around will be an event — they'll see different-looking food packages and different foods, new to the eye. We'll also have a food-tasting in the future [to familiarize customers with these new products]. We do that every week in Germantown."
Kim wants customers to come in, look around and ask questions; comments are welcome: "We're not a franchise — we [make] our own rules. We want customers to tell us what they like or don't like about the store."
Virginia Run's Danny Lee is delighted. "I won't have to go 20 minutes from home to find what I need," he said. "And since it'll be Asian and American, I can do all my shopping here at once."