My name is Cynthia Lee and I am raising money for my family’s store, Madison Oriental Market. We bought the store back in 2017 and have been in business for 2 1/2 years now.
We serve the Northside’s diverse community with a focus on providing items to prepare Asian and African foods, but due to the limitations of our space and equipment, many of our customers still have to travel as far as Sun Prairie to get what they need. For these families, it can be expensive and time consuming just to buy groceries. After lots of work and fundraising, we’re asking for community support to raise the last $50,000 needed to complete our $477,000 expansion and remodeling. Help us expand the diverse food offerings on the Northside with an affordable local grocery store!
Get to Know Madison Oriental Market My parents, Kyle and Choua, were born in Laos and moved to the east side of Madison in 1980 with their families when they were in middle school. They met as students at East High School and got married 8 years later. Two years ago, my parents purchased Hmoob Market from a family member and renamed it Madison Oriental Market to reflect their desire to serve the many diverse grocery needs of the Northside.
It’s always been their dream to have something to pass down to us kids and to give us something to work toward. I’ve been the manager of Madison Oriental Market for the last year and together, with support from our customers, we are making that dream possible.
Providing Diverse Food to the Northside When we bought the store in 2017, we were excited to continue offering Asian and African food items to the Northside. As we’ve gotten to know our customers, we’ve brought in additional items needed for traditional dishes from Thailand, Cambodia, and the Phillippines to Jamaican and Indian cuisines that are difficult to find in other stores. We’ve also begun stocking groceries needed to prepare other African, Hispanic and Asian foods.
We’ve also begun partnering with FEED Kitchens, a shared commercial kitchen space and business incubator located just across the parking lot from us, to supply inventory for their members. FEED provides affordable start-up space for a diverse group of entrepreneurs who are building or growing food businesses like food carts, catering services and value-added products.
What We’re Up Against Ever since we took over the store, we’ve faced challenges to expanding our grocery offerings that have ranged from running out of shelf space to frequent breakdowns of old and outdated equipment like coolers and freezers. Repairs have been costly and time-consuming, and have caused us to lose perishable items.
Despite these challenges, we’ve been working to find ways to meet the many requests we’ve heard from our customers over the last two years. Families on the Northside don’t want to have to make a special trip to get groceries to prepare their cultural foods. Customers are asking for products beyond the groceries we currently provide, from every day necessities like toilet paper and milk to a wider variety of items from diverse cuisines. We’ve also heard many requests for a kitchen that offers traditional Hmong food on the Northside, since there aren’t very many places to find it in Madison.
Some of our customers drive to Madison Oriental Market, while others walk, bike or take the bus. With our location near the North transfer point as well as our long history of serving customers on the Northside, we want to continue to be accessible and affordable to our customers, and to expand the diverse food offerings on the Northside.
The Collaborations Making This Possible We know that Madison Oriental Market can meet our neighborhood’s needs for more diverse food offerings at a one-stop shop for affordable groceries. Since we decided to take this next step for our business and the Northside, we’ve been working hard to come up with solutions to the limitations of space and equipment.
In the last six months, we’ve already received $250,000 of what we need to accomplish this. That’s over half! All of that money came from partnerships and loans with our property owners, the City of Madison’s Healthy Retail Access Program, MGE and Focus on Energy, for more energy-efficient and sustainable equipment and Northside Planning Council.
On top of that, we were approved for a personal loan to cover $177,295 of the remaining costs. That leaves us with $50,000 to fundraise. It’s a lot of money, but after seeing so many different groups who believe in this project come to the table, we know that with the support of our community we can make it happen.
What Your Support Will Do Imagine stopping by a grocery store on your way home to pick up fresh milk and eggs. Or enjoying hot sticky rice, fresh papaya salad and pork belly fresh from the kitchen before picking up an order of the fresh pork belly from our kitchen. All of this on the Northside, where we’ve never had a local grocery store that could serve our many diverse communities.
Your support will make this possible. The money from this Go Fund Me will go toward restocking our shelves and bringing in new products. It will also help us get our needed ingredients and utensils for our kitchen.
* New freezers and coolers will allow us to stock fresh, local produce, meats and dairy without worrying about spoilage. Just this spring we lost product and money due to inconsistent temperatures. With support from MGE and Focus on Energy, we’ll be installing energy efficient freezers and coolers to reduce our environmental impact.