Chinese Supermarket Opens in Nassau County

Opening day for Super FL Mart (Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

[Editor’s note: In the story below, translated from the original Chinese, World Journal describes the newly opened Super FL Mart as the first Chinese supermarket in Nassau County. V & T Supermarket, which has been in business for many years in Hempstead, sells Chinese and other Asian products but as the founder is Vietnamese, of Chinese descent, the Chinese media in the metro area considers Super FL Mart the first Chinese supermarket in the county.]

Super FL Mart, a new supermarket in Mineola, Nassau County on Long Island, attracted thousands of customers at its opening on Nov. 11. And it came as no surprise to its owner. The 50,000-square-foot grocery is the first Chinese supermarket in Nassau where the Asian population has been growing rapidly. With its high-end goods, Super FL Mart joins several other Chinese-owned stores that have opened in the area, or soon will be, to create a new shopping environment in Mineola.

Public officials including Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss and Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira, and Council member Peter Koo and Rep. Grace Meng, both representing eastern Queens, attended the opening ceremony.

Super FL Mart founder Yuelong Zhang said he has nine supermarkets around the country, and the one in Mineola – the chain’s first on Long Island – will be managed by his son Weilin Zhang.

“I have never worked for other people in my whole life. I am always the boss,” Yuelong Zhang said. A businessman in China, Zhang came to the U.S. in 1987. He started by selling 99-cent items in subway stations, and opened his first shop on East Broadway in Manhattan three years later.

It turned out to be a lucrative investment. In 1997, with the money he made from the shop, he opened his first supermarket in Philadelphia. Soon after that, he “retuned home” to open a second location in Brooklyn. The Mineola branch is the most high-end one in the chain. And with a 120,000-square-foot parking space, it is also the largest one in the chain in the New York area.

Seafood department (Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

Zhang said he lives in Nassau and heard so many times from his friends about the business potential in Mineola. So when the King Kullen supermarket at 52 Jericho Turnpike closed, he purchased the building and spent $20 million to turn it into a Chinese-style supermarket with different departments including cooked food, baked goods, live seafood and marinated meat. He hopes the supermarket will stop residents in nearby Jericho, Manhasset and Syosset from having to make shopping trips to Flushing.

Susan Shen, a customer visiting the supermarket on the first day with her two young daughters, said her family moved to Jericho two years ago to take advantage of the good school district. In the past she often purchased groceries at Korean supermarkets or ordered direct deliveries through an iPhone app. Still, she had to go to Flushing to buy some ingredients once a month. “Of course we are happy to have a Chinese supermarket here,” said Shen. “As long as it provides a comfortable shopping environment, quick checkout and fresh groceries, we won’t mind the higher prices.”

Katie Kao, founding president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America – New York East chapter, said the opening of a major supermarket is a sign that a new Chinese business ecosystem has formed. “Many customers of mine pay a lot of attention to the proximity of Chinese grocery stores in addition to the school district when they come to Long Island for house hunting,” Kuo said.

She said real estate prices in Flushing have been shooting up quickly, and newly built apartments often cost more than a million dollars now. So middle-class Chinese who have the means are moving to Long Island districts where the schools are better such as Great Neck, Jericho and Manhasset. “More than half of the freshmen in Great Neck South High School are Asian now,” said Kuo. And the population has helped bring in many new Chinese-owned shops from restaurants to nail salons.

The Asian population in Nassau is still smaller than in New York City, and a supermarket won’t be able to sustain itself by relying solely on Chinese customers. Kuo said Chinese supermarkets on Long Island no longer have the dirty and messy image that customers would have of Chinese grocery stores. With the broad variety and freshness of their goods, the trendy design and the comparatively lower prices than American chains, Chinese supermarkets have no problem attracting non-Chinese customers. Kuo predicts there will be more Chinese supermarkets opening in Nassau in the near future.

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