Here's how a little Asian store in Labrador West filled a gap

·2 min read
Marie Torres and Roy San Buenaventura sell everything from make-your-own bubble tea kits to ramen at their store Taste of Asia.  (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
Marie Torres and Roy San Buenaventura sell everything from make-your-own bubble tea kits to ramen at their store Taste of Asia. (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)

A little Asian grocery store in Lab West saw a gap in the community and started to fill it from their home, then expanded to a small shop

Now they're getting ready to expand again after their Asian goods — including red hotdogs, ramen, fish, tea and bubble tea — have been flying off the shelves

Taste of Asia opened in September 2020 on the first floor of the Gallery 201 building in Labrador City.

Marie Torres and her husband, Roy San Buenaventura, both originally from the Philippines, sell everything from make-your-own bubble tea kits to ramen to Canadians and immigrants alike, and have products from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, India and more.

"I see happy faces that finally we have a story like this here in Labrador West," Torres said. "They're happy and they're like, 'Can you have this in stock as well?'"

The idea for the store started small, with the owners ordering items online and selling to friends out of their home. Over dinner, the couple decided to open a shop.

But the couple were hesitant as they didn't know if there was a market in Lab West, Torres said.

"So why don't we try, right? We will not know if we don't try," she said. "We didn't actually expect that it will be that overwhelming.… We want to try it first then but week by week, we're having lots and lots of customers."

The two have applied for permits to move into a larger retail space down the hall from their current one, which would allow them to get better wholesale rates from their Ontario-based distributor and expand their inventory, Torres said.

Take a virtual tour of the Taste of Asia shop in Lab West:

Torres said there was a need in the community, as the local grocery stores didn't offer many Asian goods but were asking people traveling to the Philippines to bring them back products.

"Now it's finally here. Like, we can just buy it here in our city. We don't need to pay, like, shipping fees," Torres said.

San Buenaventura said they're hoping to make things easier for customers who might not be able to make it to the store.

"For the next couple of months, we're hoping to do deliveries too, for people who cannot come here — so we will bring the store closer to them," San Buenaventura said.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

The two hope to expand to a larger grocery store and open up a café in their space, where they could serve different Asian goods they sell. For San Buenaventura, that includes a personal favourite: red hotdogs.

"It's almost the same taste," San Buenaventura said. "Brings me back memories from my childhood."

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