Fresh International Market: transition from Asian to global market

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In the past four months, Xiaoxin Ou, who lives in Okemos, needed to go to Detroit to buy authentic Chinese food. After the Fresh International Market at 2800 E. Grand River Road opened he was finally able to buy what he needed in East Lansing.

“I am happy that the market can reopen,” Ou said. “I don’t need to drive two or three hours to buy Asian food.”

Fresh International Market, previously the Oriental Mart, closed in September 2020 to renovate for four months and reopened in January 2021. The former Oriental Mart was the biggest Asian market in Meridian Township. It provided authentic Asian foods for local people. After the renovation, the market began to sell international foods.

The location of Fresh International Market is:

New goal

Fresh International Market provides worldwide foods for Meridian Township and Lansing residents. Photo by Zewei Li.

Bowen Kou, the owner of Fresh International Market, bought the former Oriental Mart in 2012. It is located near Michigan State University, which is home to many international students. Kou thought it was a good opportunity to run an Asian market. Now, he runs five more markets in other states that he tries to make more international rather than only as a market.

“We would like to carry more product not only from Asia but also from other places in the world,” said Kou. “That’s why we changed the name to be more international. That’s our goal in the future.”

Except providing international products, Kou and his team wish to contribute to the local community and even society.

In 2019, the market cooperated with the Salvation Army to subsidize 50 African children for one year’s living and study expenses. In 2020, it did a fundraiser for frontline employees and gave them 5% or 10% of sales on Thanksgiving Day as their bonus. It also has helped a local fire department. 

New change

Fresh International Market adds the food court for customers. It gives customers lots of food choices. Photo by Zewei Li.

Fresh International Market has increased the types of vegetables, seafood and meat. At the new food court, customers can directly buy processed foods, such as box lunches, bread, milk tea and so on.

“Compared with the past, Fresh International Market attracts me more,” said Ou. “It provides more types of products, which greatly meets my needs for food. Also, my girlfriend loves its bread.”

Dongyue Li, a Chinese student at Michigan State University, buys hot pot ingredients at the Fresh International Market with his friends, and they eat dinner every Friday at their home.

“After reopening, the market provided more foods,” said Dongyue. “This is a good thing for us.”

When adding a food court to Fresh International Market, Kou saw it as an opportunity to meet market demands, thereby generating more sales.

“After renovation, we see a lot of local people come and customer turnout,” said Kou. “I think the more we gain, the more customers in the community will come. We have received very good feedback. I think people (who) love our product and start to try new things.”